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The Recovery Room: News beyond the pandemic — June 25

The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for more than a year. Medical News Today has 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 news of what’s exciting researchers working on dementia. We spoke to six experts who discuss the latest work to improve the quality of life of people with the condition, find new targets for treatment, and monitor the risk of dementia in former sports players.

We also offer the latest in our Medical Myths series, this time tackling 11 common misconceptions about migraine, and coverage of a study revealing the hazards of wearing fashionably pointy footwear in Medieval England.

Next, we delve into how the biology of naked mole rats allows them to resist aging and cancer and live for decades. It’s all in their genes, of course. Next up is an examination of the multifaceted role of omega-3 fatty acids in cancer and depression. Finally, we close out the week by exploring the benefits of going for a walk after eating – it’s good news for those who make the effort.

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

1. Dementia research: What’s exciting the experts?

How far are we from finding effective treatments for dementia? MNT quizzed six experts about the research they find most exciting and shared their responses as part of a Special Feature.

One fertile area of research is how we might improve quality of life for people with dementia. Maintaining familiar routines, sensations, and personal possessions appears to be important. We also report on the recent discovery that decreased blood flow to the brain can precede cognitive decline by years and could actually cause dementia. This spurred research into the precise role of blood supply in neurodegenerative diseases, and the reason why a failing memory may be one of the earliest signs of dementia.

Learn more about the latest dementia research.

2. Medical myths: 11 migraine misunderstandings

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, so this week’s edition of Medical Myths tackles some misconceptions about migraine.

How serious are migraine headaches or episodes? Are they simply a kind of headache? Do special “migraine diets” help? What about supplements? Does caffeine cause migraine? We tackled each question in turn with the help of three experts. We also look at how prevalent the condition is in the United States and worldwide.

Though there is no cure for migraine yet, research into the condition is ongoing, and new treatment options, including smartphone apps, are emerging.

Learn more about migraine.

3. Did pointy shoes cause a plague of bunions in medieval England?

This week, we reported on a claim that a penchant for pointy shoes among the well-heeled of Medieval England may have spurred an increase in bunions.

Archaeologists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom examined skeletons dating from the Middle Ages. They found evidence that bunions were significantly more common in the 14th–15th centuries than in the 11th–13th centuries. They were also more prevalent in affluent areas.

For more on this fascinating insight into life in Medieval England, and the health problems affecting the most affluent and privileged people of the time, jump to the article via the link below.

Learn more.

4. Naked mole rats may hold key to treating cancer and dementia

Naked mole rats are of great interest to scientists, as they live for over 30 years and are apparently immune to aging. Very few, if any, of these rodents have been found to have cancer, while they’re also highly resistant to some types of pain. They can also survive for up to 18 minutes without oxygen, making them extraordinarily resilient little creatures. As such, researchers are working hard to unravel the secrets of their anti-aging abilities.

A recent study, covered by MNT this week, focuses on the adaptations that protect the genome in naked mole rats. It appears that they are not only able to correct mutations in their DNA, they also benefit from an extra copy of a gene that protects their DNA from damage in the first place.

Learn more about naked mole rats.

5. Alzheimer’s: Discovery of microscopic metals in patients’ brains may offer clues

One of our most popular articles this week reported on a study revealing how the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease may contain metal contaminants. Researchers were surprised to discover highly reactive particles of elemental iron and copper in postmortem brain samples. Furthermore, these metals appeared to be stabilized within the beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of the disease.

Before this discovery, scientists had only identified these elemental metals in microorganisms, viruses, and plants. Their presence in human brains could ultimately lead to new treatments that target metals and also aid diagnosis. Click the link below to learn more about how researchers were able to detect metal particles and rule out contamination of their samples.

Learn more.

6. How does omega-3 inhibit tumor growth in mice?

Can consuming certain foods or nutrients reduce the risk of developing cancer? One growing area of cancer treatment research is the therapeutic potential of dietary interventions.

Previous studies in mice suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be effective as an antitumor treatment. Now, new research has identified a possible mechanism that explains this. It appears that omega-3 fatty acids encourage tumor cell death via a process called ferroptosis, but this was not seen with other fatty acids.

This finding supports the case for targeted dietary intervention with omega-3s, though more research is now needed to determine whether the same effect applies to humans.

Learn more.

7. Depression: How omega-3 fatty acids can be used to develop new treatments

We stay with omega-3s in our next article, this time exploring their role in depression. Researchers in the United Kingdom have discovered that high doses of these fatty acids may help relieve symptoms of this condition. Their anti-inflammatory effect appears to decrease the rate of cell death in a region of the brain called the hippocampus.

This may partly explain the observation that people who eat a diet rich in fish and seafood have a lower risk of depression, as such foods are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Learn more.

8. Inability of a brain region to adapt to stress may lead to depression

Another of this week’s articles examined the effect of everyday stress on depression. The brains of people without this condition are better at adapting to elevated stress, and this can be observed in changes to the medial prefrontal cortex. An inability to accommodate in this way may lead to depression.

To discover how these brain changes were identified, the study’s limitations, and how its findings might apply to treating depression, click below.

Learn more.

9. Gender bias in medical diagnosis

This week, our editors published this important article on the consequences of gender bias in medicine, focusing on misdiagnosis, delays in treatment, and how it may risk avoidable deaths.

With examples including chronic pain, bleeding disorders, autoimmune conditions, mental health, COVID-19, and heart disease, we look at the causes of gender bias, its roots in sexism, and what can be done to counter its pernicious effect on people of all genders. It’s clear that gender bias in diagnosis, medical research, and treatment causes harm and needs to be eliminated from medicine.

Learn more.

10. Is it beneficial to go for a walk after eating?

Finally, this week, we look at an activity enjoyed by millions after a meal. Walking has many benefits, but does going for a post-dinner stroll have any downsides? We look at the evidence and conclude that on the whole, it is a healthy activity, but you may want to wait a little while after a substantial meal.

To discover all the mental and physical benefits of heading out after tucking in, follow the link below.

Learn more.

We hope this week’s Recovery Room has provided a taste of the stories that MNT covers. 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:

  • Intermittent fasting no better than calorie restriction for weight loss
  • Sex bias in clinical trials: How are females vs. males represented?
  • Study captures the physiological stress caused by homophobia

What do you think?

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