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 hasn’t stopped us from publishing hundreds of fascinating stories on a myriad of other topics.
We begin this week with the first article in our Honest Nutrition series, which sits alongside other regular features, including those in the Medical Myths and Curiosities of Medical History series, many of which have appeared in past editions of the Recovery Room.
Next, we explore the phenomenon of aphantasia, or “mind-blindness,” with new evidence supporting its existence and highlighting the problems that a lack of visual imagery may bring.
Two of this week’s selections consider the influence of social media in a healthcare context — both its power to combat misinformation and its misuse to abuse and harass medical professionals.
Finally, we report on a new study that suggests that the best way of coping in a lockdown is to look forward to better days and the prospect of becoming your best self. Dwelling on the past, meanwhile, did not score so highly.
We highlight this research below, along with other recent stories that you may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.
1. Nutrition and mental health: Is there a link?
This week, we launched our Honest Nutrition series with this article on the link between healthful eating and mental health. In it, we examine the evidence that has accumulated over the years and ask why pointing to a clear, definitive link remains difficult.
The article also looks at the influence of supplements such as magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids on mental health and investigates what role the microbiome or a person’s overall lifestyle, for example, may play.
Be sure to check out the article’s video highlights, as well.
Learn more here.
2. Aphantasia: The inability to visualize images
We covered a fascinating mental phenomenon this week with our report on a study that investigated “mind-blindness.” Supporting its existence, the researchers found measurable differences in the performances of people with aphantasia on drawing and visual memory tasks, compared with people without the condition.
Our article begins by looking at the history of aphantasia and the problems it presents, before exploring the recent research in detail.
Learn more here.
3. Scientists reveal link between brown fat and health benefits
People with plenty of brown fat are healthier, fitter, and less likely to develop heart disease. These were the key findings of a new study involving 52,000 participants published this week and covered by MNT.
Brown fat stores its energy in a smaller space than the more abundant white fat. And, being rich in mitochondria, it burns energy, which produces heat. This appears to be beneficial, as, for example, 4.6% of participants with detectable brown fat had type 2 diabetes, compared with 9.5% of those without it.
Click below for more on this research, including how brown fat might be used to treat a range of cardiometabolic diseases in the future.
Learn more here.
4. Ketamine infusions may reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms
About 8 million adults in the United States experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in any given year. The established treatments take time to exert their effects and are not suitable for everyone. For this reason, the search for more effective and well-tolerated treatments is ongoing.
This week, we reported on a new study that found that six intravenous doses of ketamine spread over 2 weeks significantly reduced PTSD symptoms. The 41 participants had been experiencing the symptoms for a median of 15 years.
Participants reported improvements in the severity of depression and PTSD symptoms within 24 hours of the first infusion, without any serious side effects.
Learn more here.
5. What to know about circadian rhythm
MNT publishes articles on all aspects of the human body, from individual organs to unusual medical phenomena and rare diseases. This week, our team turned its attention to the circadian rhythms that influence bodily processes throughout the day, the best known being the sleep-wake cycle.
This new article explores how circadian rhythms work, what can affect them, how to maintain them, and when to contact a doctor.
Our next article digs even deeper, by looking at one possible risk of disrupting these rhythms.
Learn more here.
6. Can shift work make type 2 diabetes worse?
Shift work, particularly when it includes overnight hours, may affect the health of people with type 2 diabetes. It may also increase the risk of developing the condition.
This new article, published earlier this week, assesses the evidence of recent studies and provides valuable information about reducing the negative effects of shift work for people with type 2 diabetes.
Learn more here.
7. Coffee consumption associated with lower risk of prostate cancer
In recent months, the Recovery Room has featured several articles on the potential health benefits of consuming coffee — which may reduce the risk of death in people with diabetes and protect some people against Parkinson’s disease.
This week, MNT reported on a recent meta-analysis of 16 existing studies, with over 1 million participants, that found an association between daily coffee consumption and a lower risk of prostate cancer. Each daily cup of coffee was associated with a 1% decrease in prostate cancer risk.
This discovery paves the way for further research into whether there is a causal relationship.
Learn more here.
8. Embracing social media for public health messaging
Medical misinformation constitutes a public health threat. It is essential to use social media platforms to counter this by providing accurate information to the public. These were the conclusions of a viewpoint essay written by three emergency medicine experts and covered by MNT this week.
The authors suggest that people working within trusted organizations are well placed to formulate compelling public health narratives that resonate with their followers. Read more about how social media may help shape effective messaging by clicking the link below.
Learn more here.
9. One in four doctors experience hostility on social media
This week, we also reported on the darker side of social media and how this is affecting many healthcare providers.
Researchers at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, in Illinois, asked 464 medical professionals about their experiences on social media. In their responses to the survey, the first of its kind, a substantial number of doctors reported experiencing forms of abuse or harassment, including death threats and sexual harassment, on social media platforms.
The article also looks at how groups of healthcare providers have taken steps to support one another online.
Learn more here.
10. To thrive in lockdown, keep looking forward
We try to avoid all mention of the pandemic in the Recovery Room, but we have made an exception for this article. A new study indicates that focusing on good things that may happen in the future is the most effective way to maintain emotional well-being during a lockdown.
Researchers at the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom, evaluated three coping strategies by asking 216 participants to entertain nostalgic thoughts about better times in the past, to be grateful about what is good in the present, or to imagine their best possible selves and things to look forward to in the future.
A control group was asked to think about the plot of a movie or TV show that they had recently watched.
When asked about their feelings afterward, those asked to imagine a better future reported the most positive feelings, while those asked to reminisce reported the least. Read more about these findings by clicking the link below.
Learn more here.
We hope that this article has provided 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’ interests:

  • Metabolism may be able to predict recurrent major depression
  • Medical myths: All about sugar
  • Chronic opioid use may worsen the pain of social rejection