The Recovery Room: Our best non-pandemic stories of 2020
2020 has been challenging, and COVID-19 has dominated our headlines for much of the year. But away from the pandemic, the world of health and medicine has continued to deliver fresh research, new treatments for old diseases, and surprising developments that will affect our health next year.
To capture this, and provide relief to our readers from the wall-to-wall COVID-19 coverage, Medical News Today launched a regular feature called The Recovery Room — a weekly roundup of stories that are in no way related to COVID-19.
This week’s Recovery Room features 10 of the most popular, interesting, and significant news articles we published in 2020. We hope you enjoy our selection, and we look forward to bringing you the latest medical news and evidence-backed information throughout 2021.
Until then, the MNT team would like to wish you a happy holiday and a healthy New Year!
1. Honeybee venom kills aggressive breast cancer cells
In September, we reported on what Prof. Peter Klinken, the chief scientist of Western Australia, called “another wonderful example of where compounds in nature can be used to treat human diseases.”
Scientists have found that the active component of honeybee venom rapidly kills two types of difficult-to-treat breast cancer cells. How it does this may also make it useful in combination with existing chemotherapy drugs.
2. 2nd person cured of HIV thanks to stem cell transplant
In March of this year, MNT reported on only the second case of a person being cured of HIV following a stem cell transplant.
The first case was in 2007, when a person with HIV who later developed acute myeloid leukemia received treatment using a transplant of stem cells from a donor who was practically immune to HIV. This stem cell transplant not only treated the patient’s leukemia, but it also cured their HIV infection.
In the latest case, the person received a transplant with stem cells that did not express the CCR5 gene, which produces a protein that helps the virus enter cells. Following the transplant, doctors later confirmed that the patient’s HIV viral load remained undetectable in blood samples.
3. Could AI replace the finger prick blood sugar test?
2020 was marked by many developments in the world of health technology, with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and even smartphones finding new medical applications.
In January, MNT covered a study that used AI to detect changes in blood sugar by analyzing the heartbeat. The authors of the study hoped that this method could replace finger prick tests and also allow real-time monitoring of blood sugar levels. This could, for example, drastically shorten the amount of time that a person with diabetes experiences hypoglycemia.
It’s never too late to maintain a moderate weight, according to new research covered by MNT earlier this month.
United Kingdom researchers analyzed how much weight people lost after participating in an obesity program. Those in the over-60 age group lost an average of 7.3% of their body weight, while the participants in the under-60 age group lost 6.9%.
“Age should be no barrier to lifestyle management of obesity,” concludes the lead researcher. Our report proved popular this week, with nearly 30,000 sessions to date.
6. Very high dosages of vitamin D may delay frailty in old age
With nearly 300,000 reader sessions since October, our report on the potential benefits of large doses of vitamin D was one of our most popular articles this year.
MNT covered research indicating that low levels of vitamin D may be a factor in determining the severity of COVID-19 in people. Still, its role in the course of the disease remains unclear.
This new article reports on a study in mice. The study suggests that a dosage of vitamin D five times the current recommended amount for older adults could slow the development of frailty. Researchers now need to confirm that such an amount of vitamin D is both safe and effective in humans too.
7. Supplement may help burn fat long after exercise
The human microbiome has featured in many articles throughout 2020 – so many that earlier this year, we launched a special resource covering all you need to know about the microbiome.
In this article from January, we looked at a new appetite suppressant created by stabilizing and strengthening the effect of a molecule produced naturally by gut bacteria.
Researchers in the U.K. found that the suppressant reduces the urge to consume high calorie foods. It may also help increase the value of moderate exercise for weight loss, even without a change in diet.
8. Eating dried fruit linked to better overall diet and health
This recent story on the health benefits of unsweetened dried fruit attracted around 40,000 visitor sessions.
Researchers found that the study participants who ate significant amounts of dried fruit tended to have a better diet, a lower body mass index, a smaller waist circumference, and lower systolic blood pressure than those who did not.
That said, these people also consumed more calories on the days on which they ate dried fruit. However, they compensated for this by expending more energy.
The study also suggests that eating dried fruit tends to increase total fruit consumption rather than replace other forms of fruit. So, encouraging people to eat more dried fruit should increase overall fruit intake.
Vegetarian and vegan diets have been especially popular in 2020, but are they always healthful? Is weight loss guaranteed? Do vegans and vegetarians get enough nutrients from the food they consume, or are supplements always needed?
This article quickly emerged as one of 2020’s most popular, with over 162,000 sessions in the 5 days since its publication. Look out for more Medical Myths from MNT‘s Senior News Editor, Tim Newman, in 2021.
10. In Conversation: Two HIV diagnoses and the difference a decade makes
MNT launched a new HIV and AIDS hub on World AIDS Day, December 1. It is a comprehensive resource gathering the latest information on the transmission, symptoms, and treatment of HIV.
It also features this In Conversation article by Dr. Yella Hewings-Martin. Dr. Hewings-Martin spoke to Prof. Robert Garofalo and Christopher, who both live with HIV but who received their diagnoses over a decade apart. They discussed their experiences, how care for people living with HIV has changed, and the barriers that remain to this day.
In a first for MNT, we also presented the conversation as a podcast, as well as a Spotlight video that covers the highlights.