News beyond the pandemic — March 5

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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.

March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month, so we begin this week by busting some common misconceptions about MS, which is a chronic condition that affects more than 2 million people around the globe.

Next, we look at the dangers of consuming too much fructose and too many refined carbohydrates, and we investigate which occupations are most likely to be associated with heavy drinking.

We also have news of two novel treatments for diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Both studies were in mice, but the results may open up interesting avenues for research in the future.

Finally, we have articles on the benefits of aerobic exercise in older age, the advantages of biofeedback for mental health, and how to let go of the past.

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

1. Medical Myths: All about multiple sclerosis

March is MS Awareness Month, and this week’s Medical Myths article tackles nine of the most common misconceptions about the condition.

MS is a lifelong condition that causes neurological disability and a wide range of symptoms. An estimated 2.2 million people across the globe have MS, but as this article reveals, it does not affect everyone in the same way. Many people with MS continue to work, enjoy exercise, and have children.

Click the link below to learn more about living with the condition.

Learn more here.

2. High fructose diets may harm the immune system

March is also National Nutrition Month, and we continue to publish a wealth of articles and guides on the topic. This week, we report on new research suggesting that diets high in fructose can cause the immune system itself to become inflamed and potentially damaged.

Researchers suggest that fructose reprograms specific metabolic pathways in human and mouse cells, resulting in the increased production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines. This may help explain why fructose consumption is linked with obesity, cancer, and some infectious diseases.

This article was one of our most popular this week, with over 31,000 page views to date. To learn more about this study and the links between fructose and inflammatory diseases, click below.

Learn more here.

3. Sesame seed extract shows promise for Parkinson’s

An antioxidant present in a waste product left behind by industrial sesame seed oil production may have a role to play in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease. That was the finding of new research we covered this week.

Scientists suggest that sesaminol can protect nerve cells from damage in laboratory cultures and prevent Parkinson’s symptoms in an animal model of the condition. They conclude that “these results appear to show that sesaminol is very suitable for use as a preventive treatment.”

However, more research is necessary to determine whether or not treatment with sesaminol is effective at preventing Parkinson’s in humans.

Learn more here.

4. Could transforming alpha cells into beta cells treat diabetes?

Another mouse study that we report on this week provides hope that a once-weekly injection could treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes in humans.

Researchers were able to restore normal blood glucose levels, partly by transforming alpha cells in the pancreas into insulin-producing beta cells, in three different mouse models of diabetes.

If scientists can develop this monoclonal antibody treatment to work in humans, it could bring about a significant improvement in quality of life for millions of people with type 1 diabetes.

Learn more here.

5. Tracking weight loss with digital health tools may help reduce obesity

Digital self-monitoring technologies are effective at managing weight loss, according to a new review of the evidence.

Researchers looked at 39 trials and now suggest that self-monitoring technologies such as apps, websites, and wearable fitness monitors were all helpful — especially in the short term. Paper-based systems were not as helpful, however, and the effect of all types waned after a year.

Our article looks at the different types of technologies, the limitations of the study, and the discovery that feeling accountable for one’s weight loss is more important than the specifics of what a person tracks.

Learn more here.

6. Diets high in refined grains increase heart attack risk

Eating too many servings of refined carbohydrates drastically increases the risk of heart disease and premature death, according to a large study with 137,130 participants across 21 countries.

Eating more than 7 servings of refined carbohydrates per day may increase the risk of early death by 27% compared with eating fewer than 1 serving per day. It may also increase the risk of heart disease by 33% and the risk of stroke by 47%.

To learn more about how the scientists conducted this research, the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates, and some of the limitations of the study, click below.

Learn more here.

7. Which jobs are linked to heavy drinking?

“Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of physical and mental harm, and by understanding which occupations are associated with heavy drinking, we can better target resources and interventions,” says the corresponding author of this new study from the United Kingdom.

Researchers analyzed data from 100,817 adults and now suggest that skilled trade jobs are most often linked to heavy drinking. They also say that professional occupations are less often linked to this habit. The study also looked at gender differences in alcohol consumption.

Overall, the findings could result in better targeting of support programs in the workplace.

Learn more here.

8. Alzheimer’s: Aerobic exercise may reduce cognitive decline

We also report on a new pilot study that suggests that aerobic exercise may help reduce cognitive decline in older adults already living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers randomly split 96 participants with Alzheimer’s disease, all aged 66 years or older, into two groups. One group took part in supervised cycling classes, while the control group took part in supervised, lower intensity stretching and range-of-motion exercise classes.

After 6 months, both groups scored better in a test for cognitive decline than would be expected with a natural progression of Alzheimer’s. However, aerobic exercise was not superior to stretching in this pilot study, so further research is necessary to establish if that is the case.

Learn more here.

9. Biofeedback shows promise as mental health treatment

Real-time functional MRI neurofeedback (rtfMRI-NF) is a type of biofeedback that seems effective in treating some mental health conditions. A recent meta-analysis suggests that rtfMRI-NF produces a moderate effect on brain activity but only a small effect on the symptoms of cognitive impairment.

However, rtfMRI-NF is expensive and requires extensive setup, including access to an MRI scanner. Therefore, more research is necessary to prove the clinical utility of rtfMRI-NF outside of research settings — in the treatment of schizophrenia, for example.

Learn more here.

10. How to let go of the past

Our editors also take a close look at how and why a person might learn techniques to let go of memories of difficult experiences.

This new article looks at why it can be so difficult to move on from such experiences and why ruminating about them can cause problems in the present. It also contains practical steps that may help people let go of troubling memories, personal relationships, and feelings of resentment.

Finally, the article provides some advice on how to let go of the need to control things, as well as when and how to seek help if these feelings persist. It may not always be easy to let go of the past, but in time and with practice, it can become easier to live in the present and look more hopefully toward the future.

Learn more here.

We hope that this week’s Recovery Room 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:

  • Compound isolated from sea sponge fights cancer cells
  • Study reveals dietary factors associated with mental health
  • Do ‘superfoods’ exist?

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