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The Recovery Room: News beyond the pandemic — February 12

The coronavirus pandemic dominated the headlines and our daily lives for most of the past 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 begin with a Special Feature looking at the life and work of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, which we have published to mark Black History Month. We also share a conversation between a retired doctor and her friend who is 2 years into their career as a doctor. Much has changed for doctors, but many of the same stresses persist across the generations.

Next, you’ll never guess what our two most popular articles this week are about! Readers have been flocking to learn about these remedies in their hundreds of thousands…

We also have a report on the link between nutrition and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other socioeconomic factors, such as poverty and migrant status, also appear to play a role.

Along the way, you’ll learn about how parasites may help slow the aging process and how scientists may, at last, have uncovered an elusive link between the brain and the immune system.

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

1. Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler: The first Black woman M.D. in the US

This month is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in the history of the United States. In this Special Feature, we celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black woman M.D. in the U.S.

Born in 1831, Dr. Lee Crumpler’s medical career began in Boston, MA, where she practiced as a nurse and assisted doctors in the area. She received letters of commendation from some of those doctors, which enabled her to take her doctorate at the New England Female Medical College. There, she became the first Black woman to receive the degree of medical doctor in the U.S.

To learn more about Dr. Lee Crumpler’s career, pioneering achievements, and historical significance, read our full article at the link below.

Learn more here.

2. Physician work-life balance and burnout: What has changed in the last 40 years?

This week, we also published an In Conversation feature with retired doctor and public health professional Dr. Hilary Guite. Dr. Guite discusses her experience of working as a newly qualified doctor with her friend, who is 2 years out of medical school.

Together, they explore how and why changes in working conditions might have affected work-life balance and the rates of burnout and suicide among doctors. They also consider the highs and lows, look to the future, and consider how patient-focused care may be the key to happier doctors.

Learn more here.

3. Is it safe to use Vaseline on eyelids?

The most popular article of the past week turned out to be this look at the safety of using petroleum jelly to moisturize the eyelids. With close to 300,000 page views, it’s clearly a question that is on many people’s minds at this time of the year.

As well as looking at the safety of using Vaseline for this purpose, our editors explore the evidence to support its use, how to apply it and recognize a skin reaction, and some alternatives to try.

Learn more here.

4. Fish oil for hair growth and thickness: Does it work?

Almost as popular as the above article on Vaseline, our article on fish oil for hair growth has attracted nearly 200,000 views so far this week.

The evidence for omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supporting hair growth is limited. However, our editors consider the different kinds of fish oil available and how omega-3s may affect the different stages of hair growth, based on some recent studies in humans and animals.

More research is necessary to confirm its effectiveness, but for people who wish to try fish oil to protect against hair thinning, there’s advice on how to choose a reputable brand, the recommended daily amounts, and the possible side effects.

Another new article on how fish oil compares with statins for reducing cholesterol attracted 175,000 views this week.

Learn more here.

5. The connection between post-traumatic stress disorder and nutrition

Is there any association between what a person eats and their susceptibility to developing PTSD? In a large, long-term study of the Canadian population, researchers have found evidence of a link.

The new analysis, which MNT covered this week, found that people who ate more fiber were less likely to experience episodes of PTSD than those eating less fiber. However, eating chocolate, nuts, pulses, and pastries was associated with a higher incidence of PTSD.

The study also looked at links between PTSD and other factors, such as ethnicity, poverty, age, and gender. Click below to read more about this study’s findings.

Learn more here.

6. Could prostate drugs reduce Parkinson’s disease risk?

Next, our readers were interested to learn about another possible example of using drugs that treat one disease to treat another, unrelated condition. New research, which MNT reported on, has found that glycolysis-enhancing drugs, which doctors typically use to treat an enlarged prostate, may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease in men.

An international group of researchers found that one such drug, terazosin, slowed the development of Parkinson’s disease, reduced complications, and reduced the number of new diagnoses. However, a similar drug that is not glycolysis-enhancing, tamsulosin, did not have the same effect.

Click below to learn more about how the research team carried out the study, its limitations, and the need for further research to confirm the results.

Learn more here.

7. How the immune system watches over the brain

How the immune system communicates with the brain is something of a mystery, as the blood-brain barrier prevents immune cells from entering or leaving this organ.

However, researchers recently found “border checkpoints” in the tough outer membrane of the brain. These allow the immune system to monitor for signs of infection in the fluid leaving the brain. It now appears that there is a closer connection between the immune system and the brain than experts previously thought.

Click below to learn how this discovery could pave the way for treatments that control the inflammatory response in autoimmune neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.

Learn more here.

8. How weight gain over time may predict mortality

Last week’s Recovery Room featured an article on the link between obesity in early life and the emergence of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, a new study has found that people who gain weight over time without developing obesity live longer than other people.

This study on the importance of the timing, as well as the magnitude, of weight gain, included 8,329 individuals across three generations. The main message of the study is that delaying the development of overweight can increase the probability of an individual’s survival into older age.

Learn more here.

9. Parasite infections may prevent aging and disease

Playing host to parasites may have its advantages, according to a new review of existing literature that MNT covered this week. These “old friends” may dampen a person’s immune response and reduce inflammation, with the side effect of slowing the aging process.

The study’s authors focused on a group of parasitic worms that includes roundworms, tapeworms, and flukes. They found that the absence of such parasites may promote “inflammaging,” which refers to chronic inflammation that worsens with age. Inflammaging may contribute to the development of age-related dementia, cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

This article was among those that people most engaged with on MNT‘s Twitter and Facebook accounts this week. Click below to learn more about inflammaging and how infection with parasites — both natural and deliberate — may treat chronic inflammatory conditions.

Learn more here.

10. Pilot study of time-restricted eating suggests further research warranted

Time-restricted eating (TRE) is a type of diet that limits a person’s calorie consumption to a time window of about 8 hours a day. Intermittent fasting is an example of this way of eating.

This week, MNT reported on a new pilot study that set out to investigate whether TRE is worthy of further investigation. The researchers found that 26% of the 50 participants lost 5% of their weight over the 12 weeks of the trial, making TRE comparable to other weight loss techniques.

However, 60% of participants said that there was a “high” chance they would continue with the diet after the study. The authors of this pilot study conclude that it is worth conducting further randomized controlled trials to determine this diet’s effectiveness.

Learn more here.

We hope that this article offers 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:

  • Menstrual cycles and lunar cycles: Is there a link?
  • Medical Myths: All about heart disease
  • Dr. Marie Maynard Daly: The first Black woman with a Ph.D. in chemistry

What do you think?

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