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385 news posts in Health

Poverty and chronic inflammation have synergistic effects on mortality


15 Jan 2024

Living in poverty with chronic inflammation significantly increases heart disease and cancer mortality risk, study finds

People living in poverty in the US are known to suffer increased mortality, as are people with chronic inflammation. Now, researchers have shown in an epidemiological study that these effects are not simply additive but synergistic: people living in poverty with chronic inflammation ran a 127% increased heart disease mortality risk and a 196% increased cancer mortality risk when measured over 15 years.


08 Nov 2023

Could willow bark provide our next life-saving antiviral medicine?

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists have found that specially processed samples of willow bark extract have an antiviral effect which isn’t seen in already known medical compounds from willow bark, such as salicylic acid, the precursor to modern aspirin. The extract worked against two common types of virus with very different structures, enteroviruses and coronaviruses, suggesting the potential for a new broad-spectrum antiviral to help us fight viruses that are otherwise hard to treat. From a seasonal cold to a stomach bug, nobody likes catching a virus — and epidemics can be devastating. We need safe, sustainable antiviral options to treat the outbreaks of the future. Scientists in Finland have now shown that an extract of willow bark — a plant which has already provided several medicines, including the precursor to modern aspirin — has a broad-spectrum antiviral effect in cell sample experiments. The extract worked both on enveloped coronaviruses, which cause colds as well as Covid-19, and non-enveloped enteroviruses, which cause infections such as flu and meningitis. There are no clinically approved drugs which work against enteroviruses directly, so this extract could be a future game-changer. “We need broadly acting and efficient tools to combat […]


07 Nov 2023

Contraceptive pills might impair fear-regulating regions in women’s brains

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Fluctuations in sex hormones influence brain activity of the fear circuitry. A team of researchers in Canada has now examined the effects of oral contraceptive (OC) use on women’s brains. Their findings showed that ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) thickness of women who were using OCs was reduced compared to men, suggesting a mechanism on how OC use could impair emotion regulation in women. Based on this study, this effect appears to be reversible after discontinuing use. More studies on impact and reversibility are needed, the researchers cautioned. More than 150 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives. Combined OCs (COCs), made up of synthetic hormones, are the most common type. Sex hormones are known to modulate the brain network involved in fear processes. Now a team of researchers in Canada has investigated current and lasting effects of COC use, as well as the role of body-produced and synthetic sex hormones on fear-related brain regions, the neural circuitry via which fear is processed in the brain. “In our study, we show that healthy women currently using COCs had a thinner ventromedial prefrontal cortex than men,” said Alexandra Brouillard, a researcher at Université du Québec […]


01 Nov 2023

Do mild depressive and anxiety symptoms in fathers predict behavioral and cognitive problems in their children?

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Many people experience stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms in their life. Times of transition, such as pregnancy and children starting school can be significant periods of stress and vulnerability within families. Studies have generally found that high levels of anxiety and depression in parents are linked to poorer behavioral and cognitive outcomes in children. Now, a team of researchers in Canada has examined if self-reported paternal anxious and depressive symptoms are associated with children’s cognitive functioning and behavior. They found that slightly higher, but mild anxious or depressive symptoms in fathers were associated with fewer behavioral difficulties in the first years of elementary school and better scores on a standardized IQ testing in their children. The results need to be confirmed by further studies, the researchers said. While the role of mothers’ stress, anxiety and depression on children’s behavioral and cognitive development is well established, less is known about the connection between fathers’ mental health and children’s development. Now, a team of researchers affiliated to different institutions across Quebec, Canada has examined if paternal anxious and depressive symptoms, measured during their partner’s pregnancy, and again six to eight years later, are associated […]


25 Oct 2023

Our favorite bittersweet symphonies may help us deal better with physical pain

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Even before it was found to reduce pain and anxiety in modern times, music has been used for centuries to relieve pain. Now, researchers in Canada have investigated which aspects of listening to music can lead to a decreased pain perception. They found that participants’ perception of pain intensity and unpleasantness was reduced when they listened to their favorite music compared to pre-selected relaxing music, which is commonly used in clinical settings. In addition, bittersweet music – unlike other emotionally loaded music – was found to additionally reduce pain unpleasantness. Research has shown that music might be a drug-free way to lower humans’ pain perception. This decreased sensitivity to pain – also known as hypoalgesia – can occur when pain stimuli are disrupted between their point of input and where they are recognized as pain by the conscious mind. In a new study, researchers in Canada have examined what type of music helps to dampen pain perception. “In our study, we show that favorite music chosen by study participants has a much larger effect on acute thermal pain reduction than unfamiliar relaxing music” said Darius Valevicius, a doctoral student at the Université […]


16 Oct 2023

Chronic pain may increase dementia risk: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Chronic pain associated with increased dementia risk Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) make up approximately 80% of the more than 47 million cases of dementia worldwide. Looking into the future, cases are expected to increase sharply in the coming decades. A large percentage of the older population is also affected by chronic pain, a leading cause of disability that shares many risk factors with ADRD. These include advanced age, depressive disorders, diabetes, obesity, social isolation, and a low level of education. Now, researchers in France have assessed the impact of chronic pain on the incidence of ADRD. They published their results in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. They found that the presence of chronic pain is associated with a higher incidence and risk of developing ADRD when compared with older adults with no chronic pain. The researchers stressed the importance of prevention, diagnosis, and management of chronic pain to limit resulting […]

Image: Eric Arce for Outride


12 Oct 2023

Cycling in school improves teenagers’ mental health, but wider social factors may impact benefits

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Eric Arce for Outride Physical activity promotes mental well-being and finding activities that people are keen to engage in is key. For teenagers, cycling might be one of them – combining fun, competition, and transportation needs. Researchers in the US have examined if taking part in an in-school cycling program improves middle schoolers’ mental health and found positive effects. While they concluded that cycling programs may be a pathway to improved mental well-being of teenagers, they also noted that the conditions in which students are born and live in determine mental and physical well-being significantly. Physical activity has positive effects on mental health and yet, activity rates are declining. This is particularly worrying because the mental well-being of teenagers continues to deteriorate. In the US, one in six school children is diagnosed with some type of mental disorder. Riding bikes is a promising approach to introduce school-aged children to physical activity. Now, researchers in the US have investigated how adolescents’ psychosocial well-being changed after participating in a school-based cycling program. “Participation in a school cycling education program during the Covid-19 pandemic was associated with improved psychosocial well-being amongst middle schoolers in the US,” […]