The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for most of this year. Medical News Today have 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.
We start this week with a report on how incurable neurological diseases may be treatable thanks to the discovery of a new type of immune cell that could prevent and even reverse damage to nerve cells. There’s also good news for people with major depressive disorder, as a new trial that used a compound from magic mushrooms has produced promising results.
Next, we’re pleased to announce the launch of the latest addition to our collection of evidence-based topic hubs, which deals with men’s health. Cardiovascular problems are common in older men with overweight, but this week, we also have news on why there’s more to having a healthy heart than simply losing weight.
This week, we also published new articles on how to deal with post-election stress, why the exercise that comes with a physically demanding job is not necessarily healthy, and why being interrupted at work may have a hidden cost for your health, even if you’re not aware of it.
Below are 10 recent stories that you may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.
1. Incurable neurological diseases: Moving toward treatments
This week, more than 46,000 people read our report on the discovery of a new type of human immune cell, making it our most popular news article.
Scientists hope that immunotherapies based on this discovery could treat neurodegenerative conditions that remain incurable, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The hope is that it could also be possible to reverse nerve damage due to infection or injury.
As well as exploring this new research, the article also looks more broadly at the potential application of immunotherapies to a range of diseases that are otherwise difficult to treat.
2. Magic mushroom therapy found effective for treating depression
Coming out of the November 2020 election, one piece of news that was easy to miss was the state of Oregon’s decision to decriminalize psilocybin and legalize it for therapeutic use.
Our report on how research has shown psilocybin to be highly effective in the treatment of major depressive disorder was, therefore, well-timed.
In the small clinical trial, researchers gave two doses of psilocybin to 24 participants. Within 1 week, 67% of the group showed reduced severity of their depressive symptoms. This number increased to 71% after 4 weeks, at which point, 54% of the participants were no longer classified as having depression.
There were some limitations to the study, apart from its small size, such as the lack of a control group receiving a placebo. However, the benefits of psilocybin treatment appear to last longer than those of similar therapies using ketamine.
3. MNT’s men’s health hub
With more than 40 articles covering topics such as mental, sexual, and cardiovascular health, as well as toxic masculinity, depression, cancer, and why “manning up” might not be the answer, MNT‘s new men’s health hub is an impressively comprehensive resource.
4. Borderline personality disorder and relationships
Our new article on the impact of borderline personality disorder (BPD) on personal relationships reached more than 15,000 people who spent an average of longer than 4 minutes reading it. As well as defining what BPD is and what symptoms to look out for, MNT also looked at ways to manage the condition to minimize its effect.
People with BPD often find it difficult to trust people, and they may have a hypersensitive reaction to rejection. These issues can make personal relationships difficult to maintain. We list the three types of therapy that are particularly effective and could help a person with BPD form healthy relationships.
5. Type 2 diabetes: Is losing fat key to reducing heart failure risk?
November 14 is World Diabetes Day — a day to remember that 1 in 10 people in the United States have diabetes, with as many as 95% of them living with type 2 diabetes.
A new study that MNT covered this week takes a closer look at the role of weight loss in preventing the development of type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that weight loss only made adults less likely to develop heart failure if they lowered their fat mass and waist circumference. Losing lean mass, or muscle, did not improve the risk.
Reducing body fat, rather than simply losing weight, appears to be of critical importance for maintaining a healthy heart.
6. How to look after your mental health in the aftermath of the election
The election is over, and it’s time to think about something else. That was the core message to take from MNT‘s interview with Dr. Matthew Boland, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist. We asked him for advice on coping strategies and constructive ways to move forward in the post-election landscape.
Dr. Boland explained that it’s important to avoid catastrophizing, or focusing on the worst possible outcome. Instead, people should try to take a wider perspective on the situation and engage more in enjoyable social activities. Being open to talking about feelings is important, but people should do this without dwelling too much on the actual results or candidates.
7. Social anxiety, depression, and dating app use: What is the link?
MNT also reported this week on new research that has identified a link between the extensive use of dating apps and social anxiety and depression.
As well as covering the details of the study, the article also looks at the reasons why people might turn to dating apps.
The study has added relevance during the pandemic, with the senior author concluding that “with increased symptoms of social anxiety and depression, women may be even more likely to turn to technology for social connection, especially if alternative forms of social contact are reduced due to social avoidance.”
8. A combined approach shows most promise for weight loss
Using a population health management program — specifically, a phone- and email-based system that connects people with experienced weight loss practitioners — alongside an online program may be more effective than the online program alone. That was the key finding of a new study that MNT covered this week.
Such programs are designed to help individuals maintain control of chronic health issues, such as type 2 diabetes or hypertension, by putting them in regular one-to-one contact with practitioners.
People who participated in virtual care of this type and also took part in a more traditional online program were more likely to lose 5% of their body weight than those who used the online program only. They were also more likely to maintain the weight loss.
9. Could hard physical labor increase dementia risk?
MNT have reported before on research indicating the benefits of exercise for warding off dementia, but not all exercise may have this effect.
A new study has observed an association between undertaking hard physical labor and a higher rate of dementia. People whose work involved continuous physical exertion, standing for long periods, and repetitive movement had almost 1.5 times the rate of dementia than people who described their work as sedentary.
In contrast, healthy exercise tends to be high in intensity but of short duration, allowing a person plenty of time to recover between bouts of exertion.
10. Interruptions stress the body but may calm the mind
Finally, this week, we reported on research that reveals that although interruptions while working may not trouble us consciously, our bodies view the matter very differently. Such interruptions cause markers of stress, such as the production of the hormone cortisol, to increase without a corresponding psychological impact.
The lesson seems to be that even when you don’t feel stressed, your body may still experience physiological stress, which can have long-term consequences for your health. On the other hand, an interruption may be welcome because it offers a brief respite from psychological stress. As ever, it seems there is a balance to strike.
We hope that this article has provided a taste of the stories that we cover at MNT. 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 news stories and features every month. Here are some upcoming articles that may pique our readers’ interest:
- Bloodletting: A strange precursor to blood transfusion?
- Medical myths: All about diabetes
- Neighborhood noise may increase dementia risk