The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for more than a year. Medical News Today has covered this fast-moving, complex story with live updates on the latest news, interviews with experts, and an ongoing investigation into the deep racial disparities that COVID-19 has helped unmask.

However, this has not stopped us from publishing hundreds of fascinating stories on a myriad of other topics.

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This week, we begin with a new study that looks at how it might be possible to treat blood pressure without the need for medication. This discovery will be very welcome to the millions of people who experience side effects after taking antihypertensives.

We also have an interview with a cancer researcher who is excited about the possibilities for novel treatments offered by mRNA vaccines — they look set to find new applications well away from COVID-19.

There are also reports on how to understand a city’s genetic fingerprint, the potential benefits of dairy milk for cardiovascular health, and the restorative power of taking the occasional nap during the day.

We highlight this research below, along with several other recent stories that you may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.

1. Diabetes: Diet and weight loss may reduce need for blood pressure drugs

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This week’s most popular article, with over 167,000 page views, is our coverage of a new study investigating the effect of diet on blood pressure. According to the researchers, substantial weight loss can reduce or remove the need to take medication for hypertension. This is important as antihypertensive drugs may have side effects and affect blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Find more information about the study’s strengths and limitations and the implications for treating hypertension in people with type 2 diabetes below.

Learn more here.

2. In Conversation: Treating cancer with mRNA vaccines

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In our latest In Conversation Special Feature, we spoke with neuro-oncologist Dr. Santosh Kesari about mRNA vaccines for cancer and the potential they hold. Dr. Kesari talks about the difficulty of treating cancer in the brain, an organ protected by an impermeable barrier that makes effective drug delivery a challenge.

mRNA technology makes it possible to develop personalized vaccines that reveal tumor cells to an individual’s immune system. Because scientists can develop mRNA vaccines rapidly and relatively cheaply, they offer hope of more accessible cancer treatment for all.

This fascinating conversation is also available as a podcast which you can listen to via the link below.

Learn more here.

3. Dairy milk may lower cholesterol and reduce coronary heart disease risk

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Drinking dairy milk may lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, even though it leads to a higher body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage. This is the key suggestion from a meta-analysis of three surveys involving over 400,000 people.

Learn more about how researchers conducted the study and some possible explanations for the apparently protective effect of drinking dairy milk. Read our full coverage of the research by following the link below.

Learn more here.

4. Genetic atlas reveals microbial fingerprints of the world’s cities

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New research reported in MNT this week suggests that each city has a distinct genetic fingerprint. A global survey of 60 major urban centers revealed the unique mix of microorganisms determined by local conditions. It also led to the discovery of thousands of bacteria, viruses, and archaea hitherto unknown to science.

Researchers took samples from the mass transit systems of each city and used a technique called shotgun metagenomic sequencing to identify all the organisms they found. They also found that genes that help microbes resist antibiotics are widespread in our cities.

Follow the link below to discover how this landmark survey could form the basis for a global microorganism monitoring system.

Learn more here.

5. Does being part of a larger family raise cardiovascular risk?

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Being a member of a larger family with multiple siblings or being a second- or third-born sibling could increase the risk of having a cardiovascular event in a person’s lifetime. This week, one of our most popular articles, which has had over 33,000 page views so far, reported the findings.

The researchers designed their observational study using data from 2.6 million Swedish citizens. They adjusted the data for socioeconomic status, education level, marital status, and medical conditions, such as diabetes, that can influence CVD risk.

Among the findings, men and women with more than one sibling were at a lower risk of death than those with no siblings. First-born individuals had a lower chance of cardiovascular and coronary events than those born later.

This was an observational study, so more research is needed to understand the mechanisms that may explain these associations.

Learn more here.

6. 10 benefits of cycling

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Cycling can be an easy and practical option for people who want to enjoy some extra exercise. The possibility of integrating physical activity into a daily routine makes it especially appealing.

This week, our editors looked at 10 potential benefits of regular cycling, including its effect on a person’s cardiovascular health, blood pressure, mental health, as well as its environmental sustainability.

Over 29,000 people have read this article so far this week. Follow the link below to discover all ten of the reasons we’ve found to take up cycling.

Learn more here.

7. What are the health benefits of black pepper?

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Our in-depth look at the health benefits of black pepper attracted over 131,000 page views this week. This commonplace seasoning has a wide range of benefits, and people have used it in traditional medicine for thousands of years.

Black pepper’s nutritional content is impressive, with nearly 20 distinct minerals and micronutrients. Our editors also weighed the evidence for black pepper’s supposed antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties.

They also consider the risks associated with consuming too much black pepper. It all makes for some essential reading before seasoning your next meal.

Learn more here.

8. Healthy foods to eat every day: 6 of the best

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What are the best foods to eat every day? MNT recently looked at the evidence for six ingredients a person should include as regular features in a healthy diet.

Consuming these six foods will help ensure a person takes in the widest variety of nutrients, textures, and flavors. For example, fresh or frozen berries are excellent sources of bioactive compounds that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

To see which six ingredients we have chosen, the evidence for each, and how to incorporate them into your diet, read the full article.

Learn more here.

9. Asperger’s? Not again! Double diagnosis and learning to love my condition

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What is it like to be diagnosed and to live with Asperger’s Syndrome? Henry Jackson received his first diagnosis in his early teens but lived an everyday life as a young adult. Symptoms began to reemerge well into adulthood, and Henry received a second diagnosis of Asperger’s 2 years ago.

Henry’s story is a highly personal and illuminating account of the reality of living with Asperger’s. He found that far from being a life sentence, it has become something he has embraced over the years as an essential part of this identity and life story.

Learn more here.

10. What to know about power naps

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Finally, this week, we brought you an article about the power of taking regular naps. They could lead to long-term memory improvement, enhanced cognitive function, and greater creativity.

Our editors weigh the evidence for each of the reported benefits, compare power naps with meditation, and offer advice on the optimal amount of time to spend resting your eyes during the day. Sleep is essential for good health, and the key takeaway here is that if you feel better after enjoying a nap, it has probably done you some good.

Learn more here.

We hope that this week’s Recovery Room has provided a taste of the stories that MNT covers. We will be back with a new selection next week.

Coming soon: A sneak preview of what’s in our drafts folder

We publish hundreds of new stories and features every month. Here are some upcoming articles that may pique our readers’ interest:

  • Exoskeleton-based physical therapy shows promise for people with MS
  • Cancer research: What’s exciting the experts part 2
  • Half of adults have experienced weight stigma, large survey shows