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The Recovery Room: News beyond the pandemic — May 21

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.

We have a varied selection this week, starting with a must-read Special Feature reporting from the frontiers of cancer research. We asked a number of scientists about what most excited them in their field and present their responses below, together with a video of the highlights.

Medical Myths returns with a debunking of nine common misconceptions about arthritis, and our latest Honest Nutrition article challenges some myths surrounding genetically modified foods.

We finish with a startling report on how animals can breathe through their intestines, together with new articles on bees, the function of dreams, and the benefits of pink drinks along the way.

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

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

To support National Cancer Research Month, MNT published a significant new article highlighting research that the leading cancer experts we approached are most excited about. It’s a world of centrosomes, immunotherapies, theranostics, miniproteins, and radiopharmaceuticals — unfamiliar terms that Tim Newman deftly explains in this latest Special Feature.

It’s also a story of hope, as previously “undruggable” cellular processes yield new advances in targeted cancer therapies. Read the article and watch the video highlights to find out more about the astonishing advances in one of the most exciting fields in biomedicine.

Learn more here.

2. Medical Myths: All about arthritis

May is also Arthritis Awareness Month, so the latest edition in our Medical Myths series is well-timed. The article tackles nine myths about the condition, covering the symptoms, prevention, and supplementation.

Is arthritis something only older adults develop? Is all joint pain a symptom of arthritis? Should people with arthritis exercise? Can changes in the weather really exacerbate symptoms?

We address these questions and more in the article, which begins by summarizing the different forms of arthritis and their prevalence across the globe.

Learn more here.

3. Does the weirdness of dreams help keep the brain flexible?

Next, we reported new evidence for why we dream in this fascinating article. Researchers propose that the purpose of dreaming is to add flexibility to the models of the world that brains create during waking hours.

Researchers developed the idea by using deep neural networks, a type of machine learning algorithm that can learn to perform various tasks. There is a tendency for these neural networks to “overfit” what they have learned from new experiences. This means that they fail to generalize what they have learned to new situations. However, researchers found that it is possible to overcome this by adding strangeness or randomness to incoming data.

So, it may be the strangeness of dreams that gives them their biological function — improving how the brain uses what it has learned to respond to unexpected scenarios in waking life.

Learn more here.

4. 5 benefits of drinking water in the morning

Our most popular article this week, with over 280,000 page views so far, was our investigation of the scientific evidence that supports starting your day with a glass or two of water.

Can drinking water first thing in the morning really encourage weight loss, boost your mood and mental performance, and significantly improve the appearance of your skin? Our editors consider the evidence, as well as the potential risks.

Learn more here.

5. The importance of bees to humans, the planet, and food supplies

Thursday, May 20, was World Bee Day, and this week MNT published a summary of the crucial role that the 20,000 known bee species play.

As well as producing honey, beeswax, and compounds that can kill cancer cells, bees pollinate over 90% of the world’s major crops. Without them, much of our food would not grow. Their social behavior has also inspired a better understanding of how humans interact on a large scale and reveal our effect on the environment.

However, bee populations are declining because of the effects of pesticides and the growth of towns and cities, so this article ends with advice on how we can each monitor and help protect their vital role in ecosystems everywhere.

Learn more here.

6. People with healthy hearts may have better cognitive abilities

New research, reported in MNT this week, has found that people with a healthy heart performed significantly better in cognitive ability tests than those with a less healthy heart.

This was a large study with more than 29,763 participants living in the United Kingdom. The link between heart health and cognitive ability remained significant even after taking lifestyle and demographic factors into account.

However, scientists do not fully understand the precise mechanisms that power this association and need to carry out more research to explain the link. One possibility is the presence of beta-amyloid proteins in heart tissue, fragments of which scientists often associate with Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn more here.

7. Genetically modified foods: Myths vs. facts

The latest edition in our Honest Nutrition series focuses on genetically modified (GM) foods — what they are, how and why they are created, and the common myths surrounding them.

Are GM foods dangerous, and do they cause allergies in some people? Are concerns about the effect GM crops have on the environment valid? Our editors look at the evidence and also assess the positive impact GM foods have on food availability and, in some cases, nutritional content.

Learn more here.

8. Could pink drinks boost exercise performance?

Can the color of a drink have a positive effect on a person’s athletic performance? A new study, the first of its kind to test how a drink’s color can affect exercise, suggests that it may be possible.

Researchers selected pink drinks because many people across the world perceive them as sweet and rich in energy. The study was small, with only 10 participants, but those who consumed the pink beverage ran further and a little faster than those who did not. They also reported that they enjoyed the experience more than the control group, who drank the same liquid without pink dye.

Read the article to learn more about this unusual combination of gastronomy and performance nutrition.

Learn more here.

9. The Go Viral! game makes a person better at spotting misinformation

A new study suggests that people can be “vaccinated” against misinformation by strengthening their awareness of possible manipulation.

“Prebunking” works by alerting individuals to the techniques that the purveyors of fake news typically use, in this case, by using a specially developed game to expose how misinformation spreads. The game, called Go Viral!, appears to work. In one test, 74% of people who played the game could spot misinformation compared to 55% of people who played Tetris instead.

Read the article to learn more about Go Viral! and perhaps play it yourself.

Learn more here.

10. Could humans breathe through their intestines?

Finally, this week, surprising new research challenges the fundamentals of how humans breathe. Scientists have discovered that pigs and rodents can, in certain circumstances, use their intestines for respiration. Although some species can breathe through their intestines, whether mammals retained the ability remained unknown until now.

To discover the ins and outs of this remarkable study and its implications for artificial respiration in humans who are critically ill, follow the link below.

Learn more here.

We hope that this week’s Recovery Room 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:

  • Is your microbiome another organ? Maybe we should treat it like it is
  • Heart health: Not all omega-3s are equal
  • ‘Structural racism’ reflected in regional cardiovascular death rates

What do you think?

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