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The Recovery Room: News beyond the pandemic — December 4

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.

There is a strong food and nutrition theme in this week’s Recovery Room, with articles on sardines, on dried fruit, and on tips for a healthful diet.

We also tackled some common myths about obesity this week, and we reported on a new finding that suggests that the same region of the brain is responsible for craving both food and human company.

We also looked at the history and successes of vaccination, discussed how the impact of receiving an HIV diagnosis has changed over the years, and reported on a surprising finding about the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing stress (the true benefit may not be the one that many people think it is).

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

1. Medical Myths: 5 common myths about obesity

We begin with the latest article in our Medical Myths series. This week, the article — by Tim Newman — addresses five persistent myths about obesity.

Is reducing obesity simply about eating less and moving more? Does having obesity always mean that a person will develop diabetes? Are people with obesity “lazy”? Can a person have obesity and still be healthy? These are just some of the misconceptions that the article debunks.

Learn more here.

2. What have vaccines done for us?

In this Special Feature, Maria Cohut, Ph.D., takes us through some key moments in the history of vaccinations — a topic that’s on many people’s minds at the moment.

From the practice of variolation in the 1500s, through the more recent eradication of smallpox in 1980, and on to the success of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the “humble” flu shot, this is a timely piece that confirms the crucial role that vaccination still plays in improving global healthcare.

Learn more here.

3. In Conversation: Two HIV diagnoses and the difference a decade makes

Earlier this week, on World AIDS Day, MNT launched the new HIV and AIDS hub. It is a comprehensive resource gathering the latest information on the transmission, symptoms, and treatment of HIV.

It also features this new In Conversation article, by Dr. Yella Hewings-Martin. Dr. Hewings-Martin spoke to Prof. Robert Garofalo and Christopher, who both live with HIV but who received their diagnoses over a decade apart. They discuss their experiences, how care for people living with HIV has changed, and the barriers that remain to this day.

In a first for MNT, we also present the conversation as a podcast, as well as a Spotlight video that covers the highlights.

Learn more here.

4. What are the side effects of ginger tea?

In a Recovery Room piece from 2 weeks ago, we featured an article about the many benefits of consuming ginger tea. We hope that our readers haven’t been overdoing it, because this week’s new article on the possible side effects of ginger tea has emerged as the most popular, with over 137,000 visitor sessions so far.

Learn more here.

5. Are sardines good for you?

Another highly popular new article was our piece on sardines, which has amassed nearly 86,000 visitor sessions so far.

Sardines are packed with nutrition and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. This article looks at the science behind the possible health benefits, including their anti-inflammatory properties and potential role in weight loss.

Sardines contain relatively low levels of mercury, making them a more healthful option than some other types of fish. Our editors also recommend some ways to include them in a meal.

Learn more here.

6. Eating dried fruit linked to better overall diet and health

Food and nutrition are clearly in our readers’ minds this week, as this story on the health benefits of unsweetened dried fruit attracted around 40,000 visitor sessions.

Researchers found that participants who ate significant amounts of dried fruit tended to have a better diet, a lower body mass index (BMI), a smaller waist circumference, and lower systolic blood pressure than those who did not.

That said, these people also consumed more calories on the days on which they ate dried fruit. However, they compensated for this by expending more energy.

The study also suggests that eating dried fruit tends to increase total fruit consumption rather than replacing other forms of fruit. So, encouraging people to eat more dried fruit should increase overall fruit intake.

Learn more here.

7. Loneliness and hunger share a home in the brain

A person’s appetite for socializing appears to rely on the same part of the brain that activates when they crave food. This was the finding of a new brain imaging study that MNT reported on this week.

This discovery supports the idea that social interactions are a basic human need that we have to satisfy in the same way we do thirst and hunger.

Previous research has suggested that limited human company weakens the immune system and has links to diabetes, dementia, and certain mental health conditions. Locating the seat of loneliness in the same part of the brain that is responsible for hunger may explain why people crave company so acutely.

Learn more here.

8. Study finds that mindfulness does not actively reduce stress

In a recent edition of the Recovery Room, we featured research focused on using mindfulness for stress. This week, we covered a new study — with over 1,000 participants — that suggests that being mindful may not be as effective for reducing stress as many people believe.

That’s not to say that mindfulness has no benefits, just that “not sweating the small stuff” may not be one of them. However, the researchers did find evidence to suggest that mindfulness may help a person feel better after a stressful experience rather than while it is taking place.

In this article, we look closely at the study’s design, how this research seems to contradict common assumptions about the popular practice of mindfulness, and why the study’s authors urge caution when interpreting their results.

Learn more here.

9. 29 nutrition tips for better health and longevity

Whatever a person’s age, good nutrition can help improve health and lower the risk of disease. This week, our editors compiled a list of easy-to-digest nutrition tips to help make sense of all the conflicting information about healthful eating and drinking.

The article contains four sections with science-based advice on what to eat, what to drink, what to avoid, and 10 healthful habits to adopt. With the holiday season upon us, now is a great time to be mindful about eating healthfully — at least for the rest of the year.

Learn more here.

10. ‘Sit less, walk more,’ advise heart researchers

We close this week’s selection with a report on two studies that, taken together, suggest that walking more and sitting less can reduce the risk of developing hypertension and heart failure.

In one study with over 83,000 female participants, walking briskly — that is, at a speed of at least 2 miles per hour — significantly reduced the risk of hypertension. In the other study, which followed more than 80,000 female participants over 9 years, sitting for more than 8.5 hours per day was associated with a 54% increased risk of heart failure.

However, both studies relied on each participant’s estimates of how far and how fast they walked or how long they spent sitting down. Nonetheless, these large studies do indicate that sitting less and walking more are likely to benefit a person’s heart health.

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

  • Could telomere shortening protect against cancer?
  • What is the link between gut bacteria and vitamin D levels?
  • Ability to lose weight is not affected by age

What do you think?

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