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.

This week we take a close look at consuming baking soda for weight loss — is it a good idea, and what is the evidence for and against? We also compare two popular aerobic activities enjoyed by millions worldwide, with plenty of advice on whether pounding the pavements or sitting on a saddle is better for health.

Next, we have a Special Feature on Thanksgiving and mental health — how best to make the most of this important time in such an unusual year?

We also look at how a drug developed to treat diabetes may also reverse heart failure, concerning news about vegan diets, and the lung microbiome’s role in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We finish with an article that we have removed from cold storage for you to enjoy over the Holidays.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spend an afternoon in your underwear at -80°C, scroll down for our News Editor’s full and frank report.

Below are 10 recent stories that you may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.

1. Drinking baking soda for weight loss: Effectiveness and safety

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Image credit: Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images.

This week, MNT‘s most popular new article looked at a common household item that some people try to use for weight loss. This article explores whether or not baking soda is either safe or effective to consume and whether there is any truth to the notion that ingesting alkaline substances promotes weight loss.

As well as assessing if it works and covering the serious safety concerns, our editors also recommend a range of healthful, evidence-backed weight loss tips that people should consider trying instead.

This article is one of the fastest movers this year, with over 200,000 page views over the past 2 days alone.

Learn more here.

2. Comparing biking and running for fitness and weight loss

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Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

This week, we also published a comprehensive article on two of the most popular forms of aerobic exercise. Our editor and medical reviewer took a close look at the benefits, risks, and costs of cycling and running, with detailed tables of how many calories each burns and even which muscles each exercise engages.

There are plenty of useful insights to take away from this article, not least because a person who weighs more burns more calories when running or cycling than a person who weighs less.

Simple physics, perhaps, but this suggests that those who weigh more have the most to gain from building up their strength and stamina in these ways.

It’s a popular piece, with over 30,000 people viewing this article since publication on Tuesday.

Learn more here.

3. Thanksgiving 2020: How to protect mental health

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Thanksgiving 2020 was always going to be different, with officials urging people to stay at home earlier this week, a stark contrast to the traditional family gatherings with fun and feasting.

This article features a highlights video, with advice for those facing Thanksgiving alone and evidence-based tips that may help ward off the blues. Some of the steps we recommend include sleeping well, staying active, and managing one’s expectations to align with this year’s reality.

MNT also published a regularly-updated vaccine trials article this week, reporting the progress of 57 candidate vaccines — a good reason to hope for a welcome return to normality in time for Thanksgiving 2021.

Learn more here.

4. Diabetes drug shows promise in treating and reversing heart failure

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Nipitphon Na Chiangmai / EyeEm / Getty Images

MNT‘s new diabetes information hub launched this week. It is a comprehensive resource that answers questions about the types, symptoms, treatment, and complications of this condition.

We also covered surprising news about how a study found that the diabetes drug empagliflozin significantly improved the heart function of people with heart failure, even reversing the disease in many people.

Those who received the drug suffered little to no side effects, such as an adverse effect on their blood sugar levels, which some might expect with a drug designed to treat diabetes. Study participants who took the placebo showed no improvement.

Our article looks at this clinical trial in detail, and the results are very promising. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could approve Empagliflozin as a treatment for people with heart failure in a matter of months.

Learn more here.

5. Vegan diets may be linked to a higher risk of bone fractures

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Last week, MNT reported on a study raising concerns that people following a vegan diet without adequate supplementation may become deficient in iodine.

This week, another study reported that vegans are more likely to suffer bone fractures than people who eat meat. This is also true for people following vegetarian and pescatarian diets, though to a lesser extent.

This was a large study, with 55,000 participants who the original researchers followed for more than 17 years, on average. The study found that the risk of hip fracture was 2.3 times higher in people following a plant-based diet than in people who ate meat.

Learn more here.

6. Cynical hostility might lead to cardiovascular disease

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Image credit: Hybrid Images / Getty Images.

Keeping an open mind and a cool head may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, a predisposition to react to stressful situations adversely might increase the risk, according to a new study that MNT covered this week.

This article looked at what cynical hostility is, how it differs from other types of hostility, and how researchers measured and inflicted repeated stress on the 196 participants in their study.

Learn more here.

7. COPD: What role does the microbiome play?

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The microbiome has been a rich area of research in recent years, as our microbiome hub reflects. However, most research and thinking about the microbiome concerns the gut. This week, we reported on research into the lung microbiome, an organ that scientists considered free of microbes until relatively recently.

In this article, we examine the potential role of the lung microbiome in people with COPD. Although questions remain, the picture is becoming clearer. This article features an informative highlights video presented by MNT‘s Research Editor, Yella Hewings-Martin, Ph.D.

Learn more here.

8. Sleep apnea and autoimmune diseases: How are they connected?

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Image credit: Robin Gentry / EyeEm / Getty Images.

Autoimmune diseases arise when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

A recent study, covered by MNT this week, has found a connection between such diseases and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, the upper airway becomes repeatedly blocked during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow.

Researchers found that people with untreated OSA had abnormal levels of four inflammatory cytokines that have links to autoimmune disorders.

Learn more here.

9. Eye color percentages around the world

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Image credit: Rawpixel / Getty Images.

As well as covering the latest medical news and research, MNT has an editorial team devoted to answering more general questions about health and the human body.

This week, they tackled the subject of eye color, including what it is, the genetics of iris pigmentation, the rarest color, and how the number of people with each eye color varies in populations around the world.

There are also several health conditions that can affect eye color. Anyone who notices a color change in one or both eyes should report it to a doctor.

Learn more here.

10. I experienced -80°C and lived to tell the tale

We finish this week with a story from the MNT archives. Three years ago, our Senior News Editor, Tim Newman, decided to endure a whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) session in the interests of science reporting.

As well as considering the reputed health benefits of WBC, our intrepid editor wanted to find out if it really does “feel great,” as well as experiencing its other effects on the body and nervous system.

This enjoyable moment-by-moment account of what happens when you decide to expose yourself to temperatures that do not occur naturally on Earth will warm you up in time for the weekend.

Incredibly, this is not the only trial Tim agreed to put himself through, as we’ll share in future editions of the Recovery Room.

Learn more here.

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:

  • Medical myths: 5 common myths about obesity
  • Why eating dried fruit may be good for your health
  • Sit less, walk more” for heart health