The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for most of this 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 hasn’t stopped us from publishing hundreds of fascinating stories on a myriad of other topics.
We begin with the good news that it may never be too late to start maintaining a moderate weight, even for people over 60 years old. And in related news, a plant-based diet might help people achieve weight loss, according to a new study covered by Medical News Today this week.
Vitamin D has made regular appearances in the Recovery Room throughout 2020, and this week it features again with news of its links with a healthy, diverse gut microbiome.
Meanwhile, a report finds that stevia, a sweetener of choice for millions of people, may also be entangled with the bacteria that live in our guts, and possibly not in a good way.
We also explore how running and walking compare for achieving weight loss and fitness goals, with another article to help improve your athletic mobility before venturing out, which could help you avoid the dreaded shin splints.
Below are 10 recent stories that may have gone unnoticed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.
1. Ability to lose weight is not affected by age
It’s never too late to maintain a moderate weight, according to new research covered by MNT this week.
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 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.
Learn more here.
2. Plant-based diet could boost metabolism
Another of this week’s most popular articles looked at recent evidence supporting the role of a plant-based diet in weight loss.
In the study, researchers split 244 participants into two groups. One group followed a low fat vegan diet for 1 month, eating fruits, vegetables, pulses, and grains in serving sizes comparable to what they would normally eat. The second control group did not change their dietary habits.
The vegan diet group lost an average of 14 pounds and saw a decrease in insulin resistance and visceral fat, while the control group experienced no such changes. One participant in the study decided to make a permanent change to their lifestyle and diet.
Click below to read more about this study and its implications.
Learn more here.
3. Gut bacteria and vitamin D: What is the link?
Vitamin D has frequently appeared in the headlines this year, mainly relating to claims that it could help people resist the effects of COVID-19. However, there is mixed evidence for the benefits of widespread vitamin D supplementation.
This week, MNT reported on a new study that found people with the highest levels of active vitamin D in their blood have the greatest microbiome diversity. Their guts also hosted more friendly bacterial species.
This raises the question of whether high levels of active vitamin D support a healthful, diverse gut microbiome, or there is simply an association between the two. We taker a closer look at the study and its limitations in our third-most-popular news article this week.
Learn more here.
4. Walking vs. running: Weight loss, heart health, and more
A recent Recovery Room featured a comparison of running vs. biking for fitness and weight loss. This week, our editors turned their attention to walking vs. running for heart health, weight loss, and more.
Both are excellent forms of exercise for weight loss and heart health, but the benefits and risks depend on a person’s goals and current health and fitness levels.
This article looks at how walking and running compare for specific health benefits, before considering the risks associated with each form of exercise, and which a person might find most appropriate.
Learn more here.
5. Foot and ankle stretches to improve movement and prevent shin splints
One of the risks of running is the development of shin splints, a type of injury caused by overuse and stress. They can be painful, and while there is no known cure at present, doctors usually recommend rest and reduced activity levels for recovery.
However, it may be possible to reduce the risk of shin splints by performing exercises to improve athletic movement.
In this new article, our editors looked at the symptoms and possible causes of shin splints, before recommending 8 foot and ankle stretches that may help avoid them. Each exercise is illustrated with animations to help you complete each stretch correctly before your next run.
Learn more here.
6. New model more effective in predicting Alzheimer’s
Existing tests for Alzheimer’s disease can be inaccurate, invasive, or difficult to perform. For example, taking a sample of cerebrospinal fluid via lumbar puncture is one such technique, but it might put off some people.
PET scans are another method, but they’re expensive and require technology that might not be available.
This week, we reported on the potential discovery of a more accurate and noninvasive way of predicting Alzheimer’s that analyzes protein levels in a blood sample. The researchers have called for a larger study to replicate their findings, and also produced a related app for clinicians, pending confirmation.
Learn more here.
7. Brain regions found where serotonin boosts patience, impulse control
This week, MNT also reported news of the possibility of treating people less able to control impulsive or impatient behavior.
Previous research has linked low serotonin levels in individuals with such behavior, but now, scientists in Japan may have identified two regions of the brain responsible for this.
This discovery in mice could lead to the development of novel treatments for humans. Our article explains how the researchers measured impatience and used optic fiber implants to observe this in the brain.
Learn more here.
8. Growing old with HIV: Challenges and opportunities
MNT marked World AIDS Day 2020 on December 1 with the launch of a new resource presenting the latest evidence-backed information and resources in one easy-to-access hub.
Though huge global inequality in the distribution of information and effective treatment remains, the success of antiviral therapy means that many people with HIV go on to live long lives following their diagnosis.
However, the increasing number of older adults with HIV still face challenges to their physical and mental health, as this new article reveals.
Learn more here.
9. Is the sugar substitute stevia bad for our health?
Many people consider stevia a safe, zero-calorie alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. However, new evidence suggests that by disrupting our gut bacteria, stevia may be harmful to our health after all.
In this article, our editors dig deeper into the study, which looks at two forms of the sweetener, and how the findings may shape future guidelines for stevia intake.
Learn more here.
10. What are the benefits of group therapy?
Finally this week, we published an in-depth article on group therapy. This form of psychotherapy aims to help people manage a range of mental health concerns, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance use disorder, and many more.
We explore how it works, who might find it useful, the different types of group therapy, its effectiveness, and how to find sessions, along with information on costs and Medicare coverage.
At a time when in-person group therapy may not be possible in many locations, the article also shares evidence that web-based sessions are effective.
Learn more here.
We hope this article provides 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:

  • Medical Myths: All about hypertension
  • How blood markers and wealth predict future health problems
  • Does a Mediterranean diet protect against heart attacks?