The Recovery Room: News beyond the pandemic

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 hasn’t stopped us from publishing hundreds of fascinating stories on a myriad of other topics.

In the first Recovery Room of 2021, we begin with the latest edition of our Medical Myths series, which debunks 11 misconceptions about weight loss. We also look at nostalgia and how it may enable people to move forward with greater confidence, which is particularly important as a new year begins.

We then report on evidence for the benefits that eating avocados may have on the gut microbiome, as well as how the microbiome might influence the quality of a person’s sleep.

Other articles featured this week expose the threat that plastics in our environment pose to our health, look at why dogs and their owners often develop diabetes together (while cats and their owners do not), and investigate why smiling makes getting a shot up to 40% less painful.

Finally, far from being a sign of a mental health condition, we look at how talking to oneself may actually be beneficial.

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

1. Medical Myths: All about weight loss

Many people aim to lose a little weight at this time of the year, so the first Medical Myths feature of 2021 is well-timed. This week, Senior News Editor Tim Newman investigates 11 misconceptions about weight loss.

Does skipping breakfast help? Do fat-burning foods or weight loss supplements work? What about cutting out sugar, snacking, and treats? Is it possible to target fat in specific areas of the body? These are just a few of the myths we look at this week.

If you or someone you know is embarking on a weight loss journey this month, it’s an article well worth reading.

Learn more here.

2. Why do we need nostalgia?

In this Special Feature, Maria Cohut, Ph.D., looks at the history of nostalgia. Views on what nostalgia is, who experiences it, and whether it is a mental health issue have shifted over the years.

These days, experts see nostalgia as an emotional experience that may unify our sense of self and even help us build a sense of who we want to be in the future, which is particularly relevant at the beginning of a new year.

This thoughtful Special Feature moves from a historical perspective to a detailed consideration of the value of nostalgia in the present day. Looking back may help a person move forward with confidence.

Learn more here.

3. Might a safer version of a psychedelic help treat depression?

Ibogaine is a powerful psychedelic drug prepared from the root of the iboga plant, which is native to West Africa, where local people use it in rituals. It has also served to treat depression and addiction in clinical settings, as well as in more informal settings. However, its use has been linked to several deaths.

This week, we reported that scientists have created a less toxic water-soluble version of ibogaine, called tabernanthalog (TBG). Research in animals suggests that TBG might help treat depression and also promote the growth of connections between nerve cells.

TBG may modify key brain circuits that underlie not only depression but also anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction, so further investigation is needed.

Learn more here.

4. A new study suggests eating avocados daily for a ‘happy’ gut

Earlier this week, MNT launched two new hubs focusing on nutrition and vitamins, minerals, and supplements. Both provide science-backed advice and resources to help guide people through the complex world of healthful, sustainable eating.

One food that often features in lists of healthful ingredients is avocado. This week, we reported on new research findings that eating avocado with at least one meal each day leads to more healthful microbes making their home in a person’s stomach and intestines.

Our article investigates how the research team ran the study and who funded it. It also suggests possible alternative probiotic foods to include in your diet.

Learn more here.

5. How gut microbes contribute to good sleep

Gut microbes also feature in another study that we covered this week. New research from researchers in Japan suggests that gut bacteria may affect normal sleep patterns by influencing the production of neurotransmitters.

The researchers gave one group of mice access to water containing a range of broad-spectrum antibiotics, while mice in the control group had access to water without antibiotics.

After 4 weeks, 60 normal metabolites linked to the production of neurotransmitters were missing in the guts of the mice that drank the antibiotic-laden water. The researchers also found disturbances in the sleep patterns of mice in this group. They note that these may be related to changes in the levels of neurotransmitters, specifically those of serotonin.

For more in-depth articles on this topic, please visit our resource hubs focusing on the microbiome and the science of sleep.

Learn more here.

6. Health threat of plastics outlined in authoritative report

MNT have reported before on the potential health risks of plastics in seafood. This week, we covered a new report highlighting how exposure to plastics can disrupt an individual’s endocrine system, potentially causing serious health issues.

Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can adversely affect a person’s endocrine system. Today, there are more than 1,000 widely used chemicals that can have this effect.

Manufacturers use plastics containing EDCs in packaging, cookware, children’s toys, furniture, electrical goods, textiles, cosmetics, and vehicles. The lead author of the report concludes, “Definitive action is needed on a global level to protect human health and our environment from these threats.”

Learn more here.

7. Diabetes risk is shared between people and their dogs

According to a recent study that MNT covered last month, if a dog has diabetes, there is an increased risk that its owner will, too. This was a large study that looked at 208,980 owner-dog pairs. The researchers found that people who owned a dog with diabetes had a 38% greater likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes than those who owned a dog without diabetes.

The researchers found no such association between diabetes in cats and their owners.

For more evidence-backed resources for people living with diabetes, visit MNT‘s new diabetes hub.

Learn more here.

8. Could telomere shortening protect against cancer?

As well as reporting on the findings of this recent study, our article also summarizes how cancer develops and the link between telomeres and biological aging.

The research is important as it demonstrates, for the first time, that telomere shortening could prevent cancer. It also provides insights into how a wider range of human diseases may develop over a lifetime, and how telomere shortening therapies could potentially suppress them.

Learn more here.

9. Can a smile reduce the pain of an injection?

At a time when many millions of people are expecting to be vaccinated in coming weeks and months, this new research will come as good news.

Researchers investigated the possible links between facial expression and pain sensation. They concluded that a genuine smile or a grimace could reduce the pain associated with a vaccine-like needle injection by up to 40%.

Learn more here.

10. Is it normal to talk to yourself?

Our team investigated self-talk this week. For most people, it’s a perfectly normal behavior rather than a sign of a mental health condition. In fact, self-talk may have some benefits, such as improved performance when completing certain tasks. It may also aid a person’s understanding when following instructions.

If you or someone you’re with chooses to verbalize their internal monologue, don’t worry, it’s very common and may even be beneficial.

Learn more here.

We hope that this article provides a taste of the stories that we cover at MNT. We’ll 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:

  • Aphantasia: The inability to visualize images
  • Scientists reveal link between brown fat and health benefits
  • Ketamine infusions may reduce the severity of PTSD

Janelle B. Smith

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