Medical News Today: How does exercise support health later in life?

New research shows that older adults who exercise regularly can perform everyday tasks more easily and gain independence.
woman swimming
Swimming is a great way to stay fit in older age.

Insufficient physical activity causes around 3.2 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

These declining levels of physical activity may be due, in part, to an increase in sedentary behavior, heavy traffic areas, pollution, and a lack of parks and facilities.

For adults aged 65 and above, experts define physical activity as a combination of everyday tasks, such as work duties (if applicable), transportation, chores, and exercise they do during leisure time, such as walking, swimming, and gardening.

The WHO recommend that older adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, during the week. They should also perform activities focused on strengthening their muscles twice per week.

Older adults who have mobility issues should also do physical activity to enhance balance on three or more days per week.

Following this workout routine improves cardiorespiratory and muscular functions and helps reduce the risk of depression and cognitive decline.

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Promoting independence and self-worth

Researchers at the MedUni Vienna in Austria recently conducted a new study, which Thomas Dorner, president of the Austrian Society of Public Health, and Richard Crevenna, head of the Department of Physical Medicine, Rehabilitation, and Occupational Medicine at MedUni Vienna, led.

Their findings appear in the Wiener klinische Wochenschrift, and the scientists also presented them during European Public Health Week. About 3,300 people aged 65 and over from Austria volunteered to participate in the study.

Dorner and colleagues explain that experts tend to divide everyday activities into “activities of daily living” (ADLs), such as getting up, eating, and drinking, and “instrumental activities of daily living” (IADLs), such as running errands and doing housework.

The results of the study revealed that people who exercise into old age are more independent and can perform everyday activities more easily.

“People who do the recommended units of exercise each week are three times more likely to be able to manage the ADLs and two times more likely to be able to perform the IADLs,” reports Dorner.

As well as 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, older adults should do muscle strengthening exercises, such as squats with a chair, a couple of times each week.

“Approximately 10 exercises are recommended for the large muscle groups of the body, each exercise being done once initially, gradually increasing to two or three times, performing each exercise so intensely that it is possible to manage approximately 12–15 repetitions but no more,” explains Dorner.

Among the study participants, only around one-third declared that they perform the recommended strength training each week. The researchers estimate that these tendencies represent what occurs all around Europe.

Additional benefits of exercising into old age

According to the WHO, older adults who exercise regularly are less likely to have high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. They also have lower rates of all-cause mortality, a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness, and a more healthful body mass overall.

They also have better cognitive function and are less likely to fall. The study also found that those who engage in physical activity develop more independence and have greater self-worth.

These benefits create a positive chain reaction, because the older adults will require less support and will therefore be less reliant on others.

“I never cease to be amazed that — despite the proven benefits of exercise — far too many people continue to do too little physical activity,” says Crevenna.

People of all ages should be more active, so as to stay healthy and independent for longer and remain self-sufficient. There is only one thing we can do: continue to strive toward greater public awareness!”

Richard Crevenna

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Medical News Today: Weighing yourself every day could prevent weight gain

Weighing yourself every day could prevent weight gain

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Medical News Today: What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes systemic, or widespread, inflammation. The disease can affect the skin, joints, and blood vessels, as well as multiple organ systems.

The exact causes of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) remain unclear. However, genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors may contribute to the development of the disease.

SLE is a unique type of lupus because it causes widespread inflammation that can involve multiple tissues and organ systems.

SLE is also the most common type of lupus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that SLE affects between 322,000 and 1.5 million people in the United States. It is difficult to know exactly how many people have SLE because its symptoms are similar to those of other health conditions.

In this article, we discuss SLE symptoms, causes, and treatments. We also explain when people should see a doctor.


Woman with systemic lupus erythematosus experiencing fever and fatigue
SLE can cause fatigue and fever.

SLE symptoms can come and go in flares. A lupus flare refers to a period during which the disease is actively producing symptoms. A person with lupus enters remission once their symptoms go away.

The severity of SLE flares can range from mild to severe. People may also experience symptoms that affect their kidneys, lungs, heart, or brain. SLE can affect nearly every organ in the body, so symptoms may vary widely from person to person.

People who have SLE may experience a range of symptoms, such as:

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Between one-third and one-half of people living with lupus experience inflammation that affects their kidneys, resulting in a condition called lupus nephritis. Without treatment, lupus nephritis can progress to end-stage renal disease, which is a life-threatening condition.

Lupus nephritis causes the following symptoms:

SLE can affect the heart, leading to inflamed tissue around this organ and abnormal heart valves, among other issues. Atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease, is more common among people with SLE than among those who do not have this condition.

SLE can damage the nervous system and contribute to the following conditions:

  • weakness in the limbs
  • changes in sensations
  • difficulty processing thoughts
  • seizures
  • stroke

Pictures of SLE symptoms


The exact cause of SLE remains unknown. However, variations or mutations in specific genes can increase a person’s risk of developing SLE.

The genetic mutations that researchers have associated with SLE often involve genes that regulate the body’s immune function, which are called major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes.

Not everyone with an SLE gene variation will develop the condition, however.

Several other factors can increase the risk of someone developing SLE. Women are 10 times more likely to develop lupus than men, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

Other factors that can contribute to SLE include:

  • sex hormones
  • exposure to toxic chemicals, sunlight, or certain medications
  • viral infections
  • diet
  • stress


Currently, there is no cure for SLE. Treatments focus on reducing symptoms — or inducing remission — and preventing severe complications, such as end-stage renal disease.


Depending on the symptoms and the affected organs, a person with SLE may receive one or more of the following types of medication:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin
  • antimetabolites, such as methotrexate
  • antimalarials, including chloroquine (Aralen)
  • corticosteroids, for example, prednisone (Deltasone) creams
  • biologics, such as belimumab (Benlysta)
  • immunosuppressive medications, which include azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclosporine (Neoral)
  • blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

These medications work to reduce either inflammation, the activity of the immune system, or damage to the body resulting from SLE.

Doctors will sometimes prescribe a combination of different medications to treat SLE.

Dietary changes

Eating plant sources of protein, such as beans, may help treat SLE.
Eating plant sources of protein, such as beans, may help treat SLE.

People who have SLE and lupus nephritis may wish to consider making the following dietary changes to help manage their symptoms:

  • limiting sodium intake
  • limiting saturated and trans fats
  • purchasing fresh food as often as possible
  • avoiding packaged food and premade meals
  • eating smaller portions of animal proteins
  • eating more plant-based proteins, such as nuts and beans
  • eating potassium-rich foods, including bananas, potatoes, and whole-wheat bread
  • eating foods that are low in phosphorus, such as fresh fruits and vegetables

As people with SLE have an increased risk of heart disease, it is especially important to follow a healthful diet that reduces other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and obesity.

When to see a doctor

People may wish to consider visiting the doctor if they experience SLE symptoms.

Those who have already received an SLE diagnosis should contact a doctor if they notice any new or worsening symptoms.

Learn more about learning to live with lupus here.

Other types of lupus

Although many people use the terms SLE and lupus interchangeably, there are other different types of lupus with unique symptoms and causes.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), or cutaneous lupus, only affects the skin. It causes a thick, scaly rash on the face, neck, and scalp.

Drug-induced lupus refers to lupus that develops after taking certain medications. It usually goes away after a person stops taking the medication.

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Although systemic lupus erythematosus is a long-term condition with no known cure, the outlook is generally positive as long as a person receives appropriate treatment and regular follow-ups with their healthcare team. Most people living with lupus can live a normal life.

The long-term effects of SLE depend on the severity and frequency of flares. People who experience more intense and frequent flares may have a higher risk of developing further complications.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help initiate remission, prevent disease progression, and avoid potentially life-threatening complications.

Many women who have SLE can get pregnant and deliver healthy babies as long as they receive proper treatment throughout their pregnancy.

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Medical News Today: Can probiotics help you lose weight?

Probiotics are live organisms that occur naturally in the gut. Many supplements and fermented foods also contain probiotics. Some people wonder if probiotics can help them lose weight.

Taking a probiotic supplement may help keep the intestinal flora balanced and promote a healthy body by boosting the digestive and immune systems.

While the research is still in the preliminary stages, some information suggests that probiotics could help a person lose weight, or that poor gut health has links to obesity.

In this article, learn about probiotics and weight loss, including whether they work and how to use them.

Can probiotics help you lose weight?

probiotics for weight loss
Some probiotics may help people lose weight and boost overall health.

There are many different microorganisms in and on the human body, mainly in the form of friendly bacteria. Researchers think that some of these bacteria may play a role in weight loss and gain.

In the gut, the beneficial bacteria help break down and digest food. They also help create nutrients and vitamins for the body to use. The probiotic bacteria feed on fibers and turn them into helpful compounds.

An unhealthy digestive system may lead to dysbiosis, which refers to an imbalance in the gut microbes.

When too many harmful microorganisms grow, there may not be enough of the helpful bacteria available to keep these harmful organisms in check. It also typically means the diversity of bacteria in the gut is lower.

Research from 2013 suggests that gut dysbiosis contributes to the development of obesity, though it may not be the underlying cause.

As the author of a 2015 study notes, people at a healthy weight and people with obesity show marked differences in their gut flora.

Their research found that changing the gut flora in animals caused them to lose or gain weight accordingly. However, in humans, changing the gut flora did not result in weight loss or gain.

This evidence does suggest, however, that there is a shift in a person’s gut flora when they gain weight. While changes are associated with obesity, they do not seem to be the underlying cause.

The researcher identified the following factors that can change a person’s gut flora from a thin to an obese pattern:

  • a high-fat diet
  • a high-calorie diet
  • the use of artificial sweeteners
  • a disrupted diurnal rhythm

There is a small body of evidence suggesting some probiotics may help people lose weight.

Research in The British Journal of Nutrition studied the effects that one type of probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, had on people with obesity.

Women who took the probiotic supplement lost more weight during the study than women who took a placebo. Additionally, the group taking a probiotic supplement continued to lose more weight in the weight-maintenance stage, after they finished dieting. The same effects did not occur in men, however.

Another 2013 study looked at the effects of Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus.

During the study, individuals who were overweight but otherwise healthy ate yogurt that contained these Lactobacillus strains for 6 weeks. At the end of this period, the participants had lost an average of 3–4% body fat.

Researchers have also examined effects of Lactobacillus gasseri for fat loss. In this study, people with extra belly fat who drank fermented milk products containing the helpful bacteria lost 8.2– 8.5% of their belly fat over 12 weeks.

However, when they stopped drinking the milk, all of this belly fat returned. This suggests probiotics can help people lose weight in some cases, but researchers still need to do more studies to back up this claim.

Low bacterial diversity may also influence obesity. For instance, the author of a 2015 review found that there is a link between low gut flora diversity and inflammation in the body.

Low microbial diversity may also be a risk factor for problems associated with obesity, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

With these facts in mind, taking probiotics could benefit not just a person’s weight loss efforts, but their overall health.

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The most common probiotics are from the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each of these contain many different bacteria.

Probiotics may also contain other bacteria along with other organisms, such as the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.

The more popular bacteria on the market and most studied for their health benefits include:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Lactobacillus amylovorous
  • Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum

However, the gut contains hundreds of different types of microorganisms, totaling over 100 trillion microbes.

There is no evidence that one type of probiotic can help a person lose weight more effectively than any other kind.

How to use probiotics

There are two different ways a person can add beneficial probiotics to their regular diet:


There are many probiotic supplements available. These products typically include strains of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium bacteria. Sometimes they contain both.

Probiotic supplements are available for purchase in health food stores, pharmacies, and online.

Fermented foods

probiotics for weight loss sauerkraut
Sauerkraut contains helpful bacteria.

Many foods also contain these healthful organisms. Yogurt may be the most well-known dietary source of probiotics. Yogurt is milk which ferments with specific Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains.

Other fermented foods that often contain helpful bacteria include:

  • kefir
  • sauerkraut
  • kombucha
  • fermented, raw cheeses
  • raw apple cider vinegar
  • kimchi
  • natto, miso, or tempeh

Other probiotics benefits

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health state that different probiotics may work in different ways, performing a wide variety of functions, including:

  • outcompeting harmful bacteria to keep the gut balanced
  • maintaining a healthful balance of helpful microorganisms
  • stimulating the immune system response
  • protecting the barrier of the digestive tract from harmful microorganisms

In addition to promoting healthy digestion, probiotics may have many other effects. Research from 2015 suggests that a healthy gut colony is important for numerous body functions, such as:

  • overall nutrition
  • growth
  • regulating the immune system
  • keeping the hormones balanced
  • regulating mood
  • promoting the proper growth of the nervous system


Research on probiotics is still relatively new and growing. Scientists believe that there is a link between reduced bacterial gut diversity and obesity.

Also, some evidence in humans shows that some probiotics, such as some Lactobacillus strains, may help people lose weight or body fat.

However, probiotics are not a guaranteed weight loss strategy. Experts think they could be one part of a comprehensive weight loss program. They will not replace diet and exercise efforts.

The best way to use probiotics for overall health and weight loss may be to include them in a nutritious, varied diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods.

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Medical News Today: What to do about dry skin on the penis

The skin on a person’s penis is particularly sensitive, and dry skin may cause discomfort. A person may develop dry skin on their penis skin for many reasons, including unlubricated sex or masturbation, chafing clothes, and use of harsh soaps.

Dry skin on the penis by itself is not usually a sign of a sexually transmitted disease. Most cases of dry skin on the penis respond well to treatment. Home remedies, such as using a natural moisturizer or avoiding harsh soaps, often resolve the problem.

This article explores what causes dry skin on the penis. It also discusses treatment for each cause and the home remedies that might help.

Unlubricated sex or masturbation

Man with dry skin on penis sitting on bed
Using a lubricant during sex or masturbation can help prevent dry skin on the penis.

Having sex or masturbating for a long time without lubrication can cause friction.

Too much friction may cause the skin to become dry. Using lubricant may increase comfort when a person has sex or masturbates. A range of lubricants is available online.

Avoid lubricants with ingredients such as glycerin or parabens as they may worsen penis skin dryness.

Choosing a water-based lubricant will reduce the chance of further penis skin irritation.

Allergy to latex

If a person is allergic to latex, using latex condoms may lead to dry skin on the penis.

Latex is a natural substance that derives from the sap of rubber trees. People with a latex allergy react to specific proteins that latex contains.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to latex include:

People with a severe latex allergy may experience anaphylactic shock when they come into contact with latex. If a person goes into anaphylactic shock, call emergency services. If the person has an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector, administer this.

To avoid dry skin on the penis and allergy symptoms, people with latex allergies should use non-latex condoms. Non-latex condoms contain polyurethane or natural membranes that come from lamb’s intestines. There are many non-latex condoms available to buy online.

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Chafing clothes

If a person’s clothes or underwear are too tight, they may chafe the penis and lead to dry skin. Wearing loose or cotton underwear and clothes will also help to avoid further chafing.

To bring relief to chafed skin, use a natural moisturizer, such as coconut oil.

Personal soaps

Using soaps that contain harsh chemicals may cause dry skin on the penis. The best way to wash the penis is with warm water and a small amount of mild soap.

If a person does want to use regular soap in this area, they may want to consider using a gentle, natural soap without parabens. Many soaps with no parabens are available to buy online.

Laundry detergents

Certain laundry detergents that contain harsh chemicals may cause skin dryness. This may affect a person anywhere on their body, including their penis. Choosing natural, non-biological laundry detergents may reduce skin irritation and dryness.

To relieve irritated skin, using a natural moisturizer, such as coconut oil, may help.


Eczema can cause patches of dry skin across the body.
Eczema can cause patches of dry skin to develop across the body.

If dry skin on the penis occurs alongside itching or under-skin bumps, it may be a sign of eczema. An irritant, such as those explored above, can cause eczema. Doctors call this type of eczema irritant contact dermatitis.

The two other types of eczema that may lead to dry skin on the penis are atopic eczema and seborrheic dermatitis.

If a person thinks eczema has caused the dry skin on their penis, they should see their doctor. The doctor can diagnose or rule out eczema.

People who already have an eczema diagnosis may use a low-strength topical corticosteroid cream. Applying this carefully to the penis skin may improve symptoms.

It is essential to use corticosteroid creams according to a doctor’s recommendations as they may increase skin thinness. As the skin on the penis is delicate and sensitive, people should take extra care when using topical treatments.

To reduce dryness, a person may want to use a natural moisturizer, such as coconut oil.


Psoriasis is another possible cause of dry skin on the penis. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that frequently affects male genitalia.

Psoriasis patches on the penis are not as scaly as those on other parts of the body. They may look like well-defined, thin white plaques without scales, or they may have a red ring around them.

If a person spots the signs of psoriasis on their penis, they should see their doctor. The doctor can diagnose or rule out psoriasis.

People who already have a psoriasis diagnosis and have plaques on their penis may be able to treat it using the same corticosteroid cream they use on other parts of their body.

The doctor may recommend a medium to high-potency corticosteroid to use in intervals. This means applying the cream for 4 days, then having a 3-day break before reapplying.

Another psoriasis treatment option for the penis is topical vitamin D ointment twice daily.

Should psoriasis plaques on the penis remain after treatment, it is important to go back to the doctor. The doctor can rule out anything more serious.

Fungal infection

If a person also has a rash, swelling, or discharge, dry skin on the penis, this may be a sign of a fungal infection.

Two forms of fungal infection affect the penis — jock itch and balanitis.

Jock itch causes a red rash. It spreads over the inner thighs from the penis. The area around the anus and buttocks may also have a rash.

Balanitis is inflammation of the tip of the penis. If a person has balanitis, the head of their penis may appear red and swollen. A yeast infection is a common cause of infectious balanitis.

Both jock itch and balanitis may occur alongside itchy skin. A person with a yeast infection may feel fatigued, although studies are yet to confirm this as a symptom.

People can treat fungal infections with antifungal creams. To prevent them, a person should wash and change their clothes frequently. Wearing loose underwear may also help.

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Home remedies

Coconut oil with halved coconut and oil in a jar on wooden table
Using natural moisturizers, such as coconut oil, can help prevent dry skin.

Depending on the cause of the dry skin, a person may need to use over-the-counter (OTC) or prescribed topical treatments.

Some home remedies may have complementary uses alongside other treatment. A doctor can provide a person with recommendations on which treatments and home remedies will suit them best.

It is wise to avoid having sex or masturbating until the dry skin has started to heal. Having sex may irritate the penis skin further and slow down the healing process.

Proper hydration is a good way to ensure that the skin gets enough moisture from within. Using natural moisturizers may also reduce dryness.

Coconut oil offers a natural way to reduce skin dryness all over the body, including the penis. People can also use it as a massage oil or natural lubricant. Results of a 2014 study suggest that applying coconut oil may be a more effective atopic dermatitis treatment than mineral oil.

Many coconut oil moisturizers are available to buy online.

However, it is important to note that oils may reduce the effectiveness of condoms.


To prevent dry skin on the penis, it is a good idea to:

  • use natural, non-biological washing detergents
  • avoid using harsh personal soaps
  • wash the penis regularly with warm water and only a small amount of mild soap
  • wear cotton clothing and supportive, but not overly tight, underwear
  • use lubrication to reduce friction during partnered or solo sex
  • keep the skin moisturized


Dry skin on the penis is not typically a sign of a serious condition. Common causes are allergies to chemicals in soap or detergent, too much friction, psoriasis, or eczema.

If a person experiences dry skin on the penis and does not know the cause, they should see their doctor. It is particularly important to see a doctor if dry skin on the penis occurs alongside other symptoms.

Typically, people can treat dry skin on the penis either at home or with OTC topical treatments. Using a natural moisturizer, such as coconut oil, is a simple way to maintain skin health.

Making lifestyle changes may help to prevent dry patches on the penis from coming back. For example, a person can try reducing the use of personal soaps, changing washing detergent, and using lubricant during sex or masturbation.

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Medical News Today: What types of massage are there?

There are many different types of massage. Some aim to relieve muscle problems and injuries, such as sports and deep tissue massages, while others aim to promote relaxation, such as reflexology.

These types of massage are popular in sports and occupational health. Swedish massage is a more common form of massage that is suitable for a range of different purposes.

Some types of massage may have more extensive health benefits. For example, there are claims that reflexology can heal other parts of the body by targeting the hands and feet. However, there is no conclusive evidence to support these claims.

This article will discuss some of the most common types of massage and their benefits.

Hot stone massage

Types of massage hot stone
A hot stone massage can help treat muscle injuries.

A hot stone massage involves the use of heated stones, usually comprising basalt. Basalt is a type of volcanic rock with a high iron content, which allows it to hold in heat well.

A massage therapist will heat the stones in hot water before placing them on different areas of the body.

They may also hold the stones while performing a variety of other massage techniques.

Hot stone massage provides heat to the body’s muscles. This can help treat muscle injuries, as it relaxes them and increases blood flow to the area. This, in turn, can help reduce stiffness and discomfort.

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Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage aims to reach deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue.

A massage therapist will slowly press their fingers into the skin with pressure. They will use slow, firm strokes to target deep tissues.

They may specifically target knots in the muscles. Muscle knots, or myofascial trigger points, are specific areas of tension within the muscle fiber. The exact cause of these knots is still unclear, but they can develop from muscle overuse, such as from playing a sport or poor posture.

Because these knots can be sore, deep tissue massage aims to relieve them and provide pain relief. There is some evidence to suggest that this technique is effective for this purpose.

Sports massage

The purpose of a sports massage is to improve the health of the soft tissue in the bodies of people who play sports or exercise regularly. It involves the manipulation of soft tissues, including the:

  • skin
  • muscle
  • tendons
  • ligaments
  • fascia

Playing sports and regularly exercising can put excessive strain on the muscles and other soft tissues. By targeting all of these soft tissues, a sports massage therapist aims to prevent or relieve injuries, enhance muscle performance, and correct muscle imbalances.

There is evidence to suggest that sports massage can aid recovery from repetitive muscle injuries. There is also some evidence to suggest that sports massage may improve muscle performance, but it is less conclusive.

Swedish massage

Types of massage swedish
A therapist will use less pressure during a Swedish massage compared with other types of massage.

In a Swedish massage, the therapist will use less pressure than they would in other types of massage, such as deep tissue or sports massage.

They will combine shorter, tapping strokes and longer, deeper strokes using light to moderate pressure. They may also move the person’s limbs around during the massage.

Swedish massage can help relieve pain, stress, and muscle problems. A systematic review from 2017 found that Swedish massage has a range of benefits, including reducing lower back pain.

However, this technique may not be helpful for everyone. For example, one study found that Swedish massage therapy did not help those with fibromyalgia when compared with other types of massage.


Reflexology uses different amounts of pressure on specific parts of the hands and feet with the aim of benefiting other parts of the body. The practice may help promote relaxation and reduce pain.

There are some claims that reflexology can heal certain parts of the body from various conditions, but there is no solid evidence for this. For example, one high quality systematic review found that reflexology could not reduce chronic pain from multiple sclerosis.

However, reflexology may have other benefits, such as relaxation. One systematic review from 2019 found that reflexology helped reduce anxiety in people undergoing treatment for cardiovascular issues.

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Types of massage pregnant
Pregnant women should consult a doctor before having a massage.

There is evidence behind some of the alleged benefits of massage, such as reducing muscle pain and promoting relaxation.

Many different groups of people may benefit from massages, such as those who regularly play sports or have bad posture.

When receiving a massage from a trained massage therapist, there are few risks. However, the risks that do exist may not affect everyone.

People with open wounds or cuts should avoid hot stone massage, as the heat can cause more bleeding. Deep tissue and other forceful types of massage can also make bleeding worse. People with bleeding disorders and those taking anticoagulants may wish to avoid massages altogether.

Also, pregnant women should consult a doctor before having any type of massage.


Many types of massage can promote relaxation, aid pain relief, and help prevent and treat injuries.

Most types are safe for most people when a trained massage therapist performs them.

However, not everyone should seek massage therapy. For example, hot stone massage can worsen bleeding from a cut or open wound.

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Medical News Today: How to get rid of ice pick scars

Ice pick scars are deep, narrow scars that can result from severe outbreaks of acne. People wishing to minimize the appearance of these scars usually need to see a dermatologist, as over-the-counter and natural remedies are generally ineffective.

Ice pick scars are deep V-shaped scars that are usually less than 2 millimeters wide. They often look as if a sharp object, such as an ice pick, has punctured a hole into the skin. Some ice pick scars have the appearance of a very dilated pore.

In the United States, medical insurance generally does not cover treatment for ice pick scars, which can limit a person’s ability to treat them. Treatment of ice pick scars may also require multiple sessions or a combination of therapies.

In this article, we discuss some of the available treatment options for reducing the appearance of ice pick scars. We also cover causes and tips for preventing ice pick scars.

Punch excision

It is important to research treatment providers and choose one with a reliable reputation.
It is important to research treatment providers and choose one with a reliable reputation.

Punch excision is a technique that involves removing the top few layers of skin covering an ice pick scar. Dermatologists do this using a punch tool that is similar in size to the scar. They usually also use a local anesthetic to numb the person’s skin.

After removing the skin over the scar, the dermatologist will use stitches to close the resulting wound. Punch excision tends to leave behind a thin scar, but this is usually less noticeable than the original ice pick scar.

Punch grafting

Dermatologists typically recommend punch grafting for deeper ice pick scars. The procedure involves removing the skin from the scar and replacing it with a skin graft.

The dermatologist takes this skin from another part of the person’s body, such from behind the ear.

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TCA CROSS is a technique that involves using trichloroacetic acid (TCA) for the chemical reconstruction of skin scars (CROSS).

During the procedure, a dermatologist stretches the affected skin, then applies a small amount of high-concentration TCA to the scar, which damages the epithelial layer of skin.

As the wound heals, new collagen fibers form inside the scar, helping to reduce its appearance.

TCA CROSS can cause a mild, temporary burning sensation, but anesthesia is usually not necessary.

According to a 2015 review, a single session of TCA CROSS can improve the appearance of ice pick scars by around 25%. People can also undergo two or three additional sessions at intervals of 2–4 weeks.

Radiofrequency therapy

Radiofrequency therapy is a relatively new technique for treating ice pick scars and is generally safe and effective for all skin types and colors.

The procedure involves using high-frequency radio waves to tighten and smooth a person’s skin, which can help reduce the appearance of scars.


dermabrasion or microneedling being performed by dermatologist to treat acne.
Microneedling is a procedure that aims to encourage collagen production.

Microneedling, which is also called collagen-induction therapy, is a technique that involves damaging the skin to promote collagen production.

During this procedure, a dermatologist gently applies a needle-studded device over the acne scars. The device creates small holes in the skin, which produce new collagen fibers as they heal. This collagen formation helps reduce the appearance of the ice pick scars.

Many people experience some swelling or bruising after the procedure, and this can last for several days.

Resurfacing therapies

Following other treatments, a dermatologist may also recommend resurfacing procedures to further reduce the appearance of ice pick scars.

Resurfacing therapies involve removing the skin over and around the scars to encourage the growth of new, healthier skin cells.

Laser skin resurfacing is one of the most common resurfacing techniques that dermatologists use to treat ice pick scars. The procedure involves using monochromatic light to deliver thermal energy to the scar, which stimulates the production of collagen and elastin.


According to a 2015 review, scarring may occur in around 95% of people with acne. Although any type of acne may cause scarring, it is generally more likely to occur in people who develop severe acne.

Risk factors for acne scarring include:

  • having inflammatory acne lesions, such as cysts and nodules
  • delaying or not receiving treatment for inflammatory acne
  • picking, popping, or scratching acne pimples and lesions
  • having a close relative who has acne scars

Severe or inflammatory acne can penetrate the skin deeply, which can damage the skin and the underlying tissues. The body heals this damage by producing collagen and elastin.

If the body makes too much or too little collagen, it can cause scarring. Pitted scars, such as ice pick scars, can develop when the body does not produce enough collagen. If the body produces too much collagen, raised scars can form.

Prevention tips

Person in front of bathroom mirror holding tube of skin care product
Using oil-free and noncomedogenic products can help prevent acne breakouts.

It is not always possible to prevent acne scarring. However, the best way to reduce the risk of scarring is to treat all acne outbreaks and to take steps to prevent future outbreaks.

A person can often treat mild acne using over-the-counter products and medications. People with more severe acne should discuss treatment options with a dermatologist.

Steps that can help prevent future outbreaks of acne include:

  • avoiding picking, popping, scratching, or touching acne lesions
  • continuing treatment even after acne clears
  • cleaning the skin gently by avoiding vigorous scrubbing and harsh soaps or cleansers
  • regularly washing the hair with shampoo, particularly if the hair is oily
  • using oil-free and noncomedogenic skin care products and cosmetics

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Ice pick scars are small, deep scars that can develop following severe outbreaks of acne. Over-the-counter products and natural remedies are generally not effective treatments.

However, a number of professional treatments can help reduce the appearance of ice pick scars.

The best way to reduce the risk of ice pick scars is by treating acne outbreaks promptly and avoiding picking or popping acne lesions. Practicing good skin hygiene can help prevent future acne outbreaks, which also reduces the risk of acne scarring.

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Medical News Today: What to know about sleeping with earplugs

Earplugs are generally safe to use while sleeping. However, it is possible that frequent use can lead to some minor problems in the long run, such as earwax buildup.

Sometimes, noise from the environment can disrupt sleep. For example, having a bedroom that faces a busy street can affect sleep duration. However, disrupted sleep may also be a problem when trying to sleep in different environments, such as on a plane.

Earplugs can significantly reduce the amount of sound entering the ears, which may help people get to sleep in noisy environments.

This article will discuss the safety of earplugs and the benefits they can provide.


Sleeping with earplugs
Using earplugs while sleeping can block out surrounding noises.

Using earplugs is a great way to block out surrounding noises that can disturb a natural sleep pattern.

Not all noises have a negative effect on sleep. For example, some people find white noise or music helpful for falling asleep.

In many cases, however, noise can make it difficult to fall asleep or to get a full night’s sleep.

Earplugs could promote good sleep for people who live in a noisy neighborhood or want to get some sleep on a flight.

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What does the research say?

Research shows that earplugs are a safe and affordable way of improving sleep quality.

In some cases, the use of earplugs, along with eye masks, can increase rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the deepest form of sleep and supports several important processes, such as memory consolidation.

Earplugs may also increase melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that controls when the body is ready for sleep.

Compared with some other methods of inducing sleep, earplugs have fewer side effects. For example, both over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills can have a range of side effects, such as dizziness and daytime drowsiness.

Types and how to use

It is important to use earplugs appropriately, depending on their type.

For expandable foam earplugs, roll them into a tight cylindrical shape and insert halfway into the ear canal, where they will expand.

Other types of earplugs are cone-shaped and will not expand in the ear. Carefully insert the smaller end into the ear canal and gently push the earplug in to tighten.

The earplug should noticeably reduce sound but still be comfortable enough to sleep in. At first, using earplugs may feel unnatural. However, this feeling will go away over time.


Sleeping with earplugs may cause earwax
Wearing earplugs can lead to a buildup of earwax, causing itching and discomfort in the ear.

Although earplugs are safe to use in general, there is little information on how frequent use of earplugs over long periods of time could affect the ears.

One possible risk is a buildup of earwax. Earwax, or cerumen, is a waxy substance that helps protect the ear canal from water, bacteria, dead skin, and other harmful debris.

Earwax is important for maintaining good ear health, but it can also cause problems.

Repeatedly blocking the ear canal, such as with regular use of earplugs, can cause a buildup of earwax.

Having a buildup of earwax can cause:

  • itching and discomfort in the ear
  • tinnitus, a ringing noise in the ear
  • hearing difficulties
  • cough
  • dizziness

Treatments options for an earwax buildup include using medical eardrops or undergoing the direct removal of the earwax.

It is also possible for the regular use of earplugs to cause an ear infection. This can occur as a result of bacteria entering the ear canal from the earplug itself or growing from a buildup of earwax.

An ear infection can cause symptoms that include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • hearing problems
  • itching and discomfort in the ear
  • tinnitus

It is possible to treat a bacterial ear infection by taking antibiotic medications.

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Other benefits

Sleeping with earplugs aids sleep which helps happiness
Getting enough sleep is essential for good health.

Earplugs can help improve the quality and duration of sleep. They can also allow people to take naps in public places and catch up on any missed sleep from the night before.

Getting enough sleep has a range of health benefits. A lack of sleep could increase the risk of chronic health conditions such as:

Sleep deprivation can also have more immediate effects on the body and mind. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • drowsiness
  • problems concentrating
  • memory difficulties
  • reduced strength
  • increased risk of infection
  • mood swings
  • hallucinations

These symptoms can be highly disruptive to daily life. They can even be life threatening when they occur during driving or operating heavy machinery.

Earplugs can help people avoid sleep deprivation and the chronic health conditions it can cause. Adults should aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, while teenagers and children tend to need around 8–13 hours of sleep every night.

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Earplugs are a safe and affordable way of getting more good quality sleep. Frequent use of earplugs could lead to a buildup of earwax or an ear infection.

However, the dangers of sleep deprivation are more severe. Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of chronic health conditions and be highly disruptive to normal daily life.

People who are unable to get a good night’s sleep due to excess noise in their environment may benefit from using earplugs.

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Medical News Today: Should I see a doctor about my cough?

A cough is a common symptom that occurs in a range of different conditions. Some, including pneumonia and asthma, require medical attention. It is best to see a doctor for coughs that persist for longer than 3 weeks, as they may indicate something more serious.

A cough occurs when the lungs or airways become irritated. The most common cause of a cough is the common cold, which does not usually require medical attention.

However, coughs that occur with other symptoms, such as dizziness, may require a trip to doctor. This is particularly important with more serious symptoms, such as coughing up blood.

This article will discuss when to see a doctor about a cough, as well as some possible causes of a persistent cough.

When to get a cough checked out

Patient speaking with a doctor about a cough that won't go away
A person should seek medical attention for a subacute or chronic cough.

Different types of cough vary in how long they last. For example:

  • acute coughs last less than 3 weeks
  • subacute coughs last 3–8 weeks
  • chronic coughs last over 8 weeks

Each cough can have a different cause, and some may require medical attention. Most acute coughs have less serious causes, such as a cold. It is not necessary to see a doctor in these cases.

However, subacute and chronic coughs could be a sign of something more serious that may require medical attention.

It is also important to see a doctor if the cough occurs with other, more serious symptoms, such as:

  • coughing up blood
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • unexplained weight loss

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Below, we discuss several possible causes of a cough, as well as the other symptoms they may cause.

The common cold

A common cold is one of the most common causes of an acute cough. Colds are the result of a respiratory virus, the most common being rhinovirus. Other symptoms of a cold can include:

It is not necessary to see a doctor for a cold, as the symptoms will usually go away on their own within a few days.

However, it is important to see a doctor if symptoms persist for longer than 10 days or become severe.


Bronchitis occurs when the airways in the lungs become inflamed. Acute bronchitis lasts for a few days or weeks, but chronic bronchitis can persist for months.

Both types of bronchitis cause a cough that brings some mucus up with it. Other symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • fatigue

It is possible to treat most cases of acute bronchitis at home with rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

Symptoms that last for longer than a couple of weeks could indicate chronic bronchitis, and this will require a trip to the doctor.


Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It causes the small air sacs in the lung, or alveoli, to become inflamed and fill with fluid. This makes it harder for the lungs to transfer oxygen to the bloodstream.

Pneumonia can cause a cough that brings up mucus. It may also lead to:

  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • confusion

People with pneumonia should see a doctor for treatment. The condition can become severe in older people and may require hospitalization.


doctor and male patient with inhaler on table
A doctor can help find the right treatment for asthma.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it harder to breathe. In some people, certain triggers can bring on bouts of asthma, such as exposure to irritants in the environment. It can cause frequent coughing, especially at night.

Other symptoms of asthma include:

  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightness

It is important to see a doctor about asthma. They can help a person find the right treatment and identify any triggers of the condition.


Allergies occur as a result of the immune system overreacting to a harmless substance, such as pollen or dust. Coming into contact with these substances can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • sneezing
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • itching
  • skin rashes
  • sore eyes
  • coughing

In the most severe cases, allergies can cause anaphylaxis, which is the rapid and simultaneous onset of several symptoms. Anaphylaxis can quickly become severe and requires immediate medical attention.

In most cases, allergies do not have a cure. The most effective way to deal with an allergy is to avoid triggers.

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition wherein stomach acid reaches the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach.

The most common symptom is heartburn, or a burning sensation in the throat that can get worse when lying down. Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • coughing
  • nausea
  • bad breath
  • chest pain
  • problems swallowing
  • breathing difficulties
  • vomiting

There is no cure for GERD, but a doctor can make lifestyle recommendations that may help control symptoms. There are also medications available that can reduce discomfort.

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of lung disease that affects breathing. Smoking tobacco is the main cause of COPD.

People with COPD can develop other conditions that worsen their symptoms, such as obstructive bronchiolitis or emphysema.

Breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath and difficulty exhaling, are the main symptoms of COPD.

Other symptoms may include:

  • frequent coughing
  • wheezing
  • excess mucus

It is vital to see a doctor about COPD. Treatment will primarily involve giving up smoking and avoiding exposure to smoke or other irritants.

In more serious cases, an oxygen tank may be necessary to help support the lungs.


The outlook for a cough that will not go away depends on its cause. A cold can go away with no treatment within 7–10 days. However, other causes are lifelong conditions that may require ongoing management, such as GERD.

It is best to see a doctor if the cough persists for longer than 3 weeks or occurs with other, more serious symptoms, such as coughing up blood.

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Medical News Today: What is the most healthful oil for frying?

How healthful an oil is to cook with mostly depends on how it reacts when heated. Generally, olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil are healthful for cooking with.

Oil reaches its smoking point once it starts to smoke and break down. Once it passes the smoking point, it releases free radicals that can cause damage to cells in the body.

Oils with high smoke points may be more stable and more healthful to cook with than those with low smoke points. The stability of an oil depends on how tightly packed the fatty acids in them are. The more tightly packed, the harder they are to break apart when heated.

Saturated and monounsaturated fats are the most stable oils to cook with. Higher levels of saturation in oil mean that it is more resistant to oxidization, the process wherein the acids break apart.

Polyunsaturated oils contain short-chain fatty acids and break apart more easily when heated, releasing more free radicals. Polyunsaturated oils are best to use unheated, such as by drizzling them over food or using them in dressings.

In this article, we take a look at the oils most healthful for deep frying, shallow frying, and roasting, along with other things to consider when choosing a cooking oil.

Most healthful oils for deep frying

temperature gauge and oil in a pan
Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil may be the most suitable oils for deep frying.

One study found that extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil were two of the most stable oils. The researchers heated 3 liters of oil in a deep fryer at 356°F (180°C) for 6 hours. This suggests that they may be the most suitable oils for deep frying.

Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is high in antioxidants and fatty acids. This makes it a more stable oil when heated at high temperatures.

Coconut oil comprises 92% saturated fat, and its resistance to oxidization makes it a stable cooking oil. One study showed that coconut oil was still stable after 8 hours of deep frying.

Due to its high saturated fat content, it is best to use coconut oil in moderation. Research has suggested that coconut oil raises both high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol levels more than unsaturated oils but less than butter.

The same review suggested that coconut oil may not be suitable for deep frying, however, due to its low smoke point. As a result, it may be better for shallow frying.

There are also studies that suggest that smoke point may not be the most important factor in the safety of oils when heated.

The authors of a 2018 study suggest that oxidative stability is more important than smoke point when looking at how healthful cooking oils are. In this study, coconut oil had high stability after heating.

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Most healthful oils for shallow frying

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Avocado oil is good for shallow frying.

Along with coconut oil and olive oil, avocado oil is a good oil to use for shallow frying. Avocado oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fat, which means that it stays fairly stable when heated.

Avocado oil raises the levels of good cholesterol in the body and lowers the bad. It also contains vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that may help reduce free radicals in the body.

People can use sunflower oil for shallow frying. It has a high smoke point and is also a good source of vitamin E.

Sunflower oil contains high levels of omega-6, however. Consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation in the body. As a result, it may be best to use sunflower oil in moderation.

Canola oil is another oil with a high smoke point, making it suitable for shallow frying.

Most healthful oils for roasting

When choosing an oil to use for roasting, it may be best to choose one that has a high smoke point.

Oils with relatively high smoke points include coconut oil, peanut oil, and sunflower oil.

Olive oil is one of the more healthful oils, but its smoke point is slightly lower than that of the above oils. As a result, it may be best to use when roasting at a temperature lower than 374°F (190°C).

Avocado oil has a similar stability to olive oil at that heat.

Other healthful oils

The following oils have fairly healthful nutrition profiles. Some are more suitable for use in cooking than others, however.

Peanut oil

Also called groundnut oil, peanut oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which makes it suitable for cooking. However, it does contain polyunsaturated fats as well.

It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Canola oil

Canola oil is suitable for frying. Some research suggests that it can improve insulin sensitivity and help reduce cholesterol levels compared with other sources of fat.

Flaxseed oil

Flaxseed oil is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats for the body, and which may help prevent health conditions such as heart disease.

Flaxseed oil oxidizes easily, so it is best for drizzling over salads or food after cooking. It is best to keep it in a dark, airtight container in the fridge to prevent it from turning rancid.

Considerations when choosing a cooking oil

Oils that contain lower levels of linoleic acid, such as olive and canola oil, are better for frying.

Polyunsaturated oils, such as corn, sunflower, and safflower, are best for using in dressings rather than cooking with.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend that people choose oils containing less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. They also advise people to avoid partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.

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Oils and fats to avoid

Trans fats increase LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol in the body and increase inflammation. This can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Trans fats are present in processed foods, such as some store-bought cakes, donuts, cookies, and fast foods. Commercial deep-fried foods may contain trans fats if the manufacturers have cooked them in partially hydrogenated oils.

Trans fats also occur naturally in small amounts in animal fats, such as milk and meat.

People should also avoid heating oils at or above 375°F (190.5°C), as this can increase the chances of a toxic compound called 4-hydroxy-2-trans-nonenal (HNE) building up. HNE can increase the risk of health conditions such as liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.

HNE can start to build up after just one use, and reheating the same oil to a high temperature can cause HNE to accumulate even further.

Healthful alternatives to using fats and oils

man using spray oil
Spray oil is a healthful alternative.

People can also cook many foods without using fats or oils. Some alternative options include using the following:

  • a small amount of stock or water to fry or roast foods in
  • nonstick pans
  • a spray oil, which helps a person use less oil when cooking

Using other liquids in cooking can add flavor and create an easy sauce for the dish, such as:

  • cooking sherry
  • wine
  • tomato juice
  • lemon juice
  • milk
  • vinegar

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Oils high in monounsaturated fats are best for cooking with due to their stability when heated, as well as their potential health benefits. Examples include olive, avocado, and canola oil.

Coconut oil is also a stable fat to cook with. It may be best to use it in moderation due to its high saturated fat content, however.

Polyunsaturated oils are not suitable for cooking with due to their high rate of oxidization, but they could provide health benefits when a person uses them raw.

It is best to avoid trans fats and high quantities of saturated fats, as these can increase the risk of health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

The cooking oils in this article are available to purchase online.

Shop for extra virgin olive oil.

Shop for coconut oil.

Shop for avocado oil.

Shop for canola oil.


What is the most healthful method of frying?


People can enjoy fried foods occasionally, but they should be mindful about a few things when they decide to indulge.

Firstly, they should fry the foods in their own kitchen so they can control how much oil they use. Choose a fresh, clean, heart-healthy oil with a high smoke point, and stick to appropriate temperatures using a thermometer. Use little to no batter, and always drain excess oil. Finally, try to pair the fried food with a healthful side dish.

Katherine Marengo LDN, RD
Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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