Medical News Today: Stress may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

New research suggests that vital exhaustion, a marker of psychological distress, may raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
senior woman massaging her temples
Psychological distress in midlife may bring about dementia later on, suggests new research.

Many factors may increase Alzheimer’s risk, including age, family history, and genetic makeup.

Certain health issues, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, may also influence the odds of experiencing dementia because they impact the blood vessels.

New research indicates that psychological factors could also affect risk. Psychological distress, in particular, may increase the likelihood of developing dementia, suggests the new study.

Specifically, researchers led by Sabrina Islamoska, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, set out to investigate the possibility of a link between vital exhaustion and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vital exhaustion describes “a mental state of psychological distress” that manifests as irritability, fatigue, and a feeling of demoralization.

As the researchers explain, vital exhaustion may be a reaction to “unsolvable problems” in one’s life, especially when the person has been exposed to stressors for a prolonged period. So, vital exhaustion can be seen as a sign of psychological distress.

Previous studies have noted that vital exhaustion may raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, premature death, and obesity, among other conditions.

Islamoska and her colleagues published their findings in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Stress may raise risk by up to 25 percent

The researchers analyzed data from a survey of almost 7,000 individuals who participated in the Copenhagen City Heart Study between 1991 and 1994. The participants had been 60 years old, on average, at the time.

As part of the survey, the participants had been asked questions about vital exhaustion.

Islamoska and her colleagues clinically followed the participants until the end of 2016. They also examined the participants’ hospital records and mortality and prescription registers in search of diagnoses of dementia.

The study revealed a dose-response link between vital exhaustion in midlife and the development of Alzheimer’s later on. The lead author reports, “For each additional symptom of vital exhaustion, we found that the risk of dementia rose by 2 percent.”

“Participants reporting five to nine symptoms had a 25 percent higher risk of dementia than those with no symptoms, while those reporting 10 to 17 symptoms had a 40 percent higher risk of dementia, compared with not having symptoms,” Islamoska continues.

The authors explain that the results are unlikely to be due to reverse causation, that is, it is unlikely that dementia causes vital exhaustion, rather than the other way around.

“We were particularly concerned whether the symptoms of vital exhaustion would be an early sign of dementia,” explains Islamoska. “Yet, we found an association of the same magnitude, even when separating the reporting of vital exhaustion and the dementia diagnoses with up to 20 years.”

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Regarding the possible mechanisms that may underpin the findings, the researchers point to excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol and cardiovascular changes as potential culprits.

“Stress can have severe and harmful consequences, not just for our brain health, but our health in general,” says Islamoska.

“Cardiovascular risk factors are well-known, modifiable risk factors for dementia, and in some countries, a stagnation or even a decreasing incidence of dementia has been observed.”

“Our study indicates that we can go further in the prevention of dementia by addressing psychological risk factors for dementia,” Islamoska concludes.

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Medical News Today: What are the possible side effects of the hepatitis B vaccine?

Although it might cause the injection site to become sore or other mild side effects, the hepatitis B vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the virus. More serious side effects are rare.

Hepatitis causes inflammation in the liver. The cause of hepatitis B is a virus that can spread through the blood or other bodily fluids.

Hepatitis B may not cause symptoms and will clear up without treatment in some cases. In other cases, however, it will require treatment and can cause issues such as digestive problems and flu-like symptoms. It can also have serious consequences, including permanent liver damage.

Developing hepatitis B is less common in countries such as the United States, but it is still a risk. The hepatitis B vaccine is highly effective at preventing the infection.

Is it safe?

Nurse giving a Hepatitis b vaccine
Reports suggest that there is no association between the hepatitis B vaccine and serious health outcomes.

The risks associated with the hepatitis B vaccine are negligible, including in children and people who are pregnant.

A report that appears in the journal Vaccine assesses adverse events in adults after receiving either a hepatitis A or B vaccine in 2001–2003.

Beyond mild side effects, the scientists found no association between the vaccine and any serious health outcomes.

However, the vaccine may cause reactions in people who are allergic to it. This could become serious if it leads to anaphylactic shock.

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Side effects

The hepatitis B vaccine causes common side effects in around 1 in 10 people who have it.

Uncommon side effects may occur in 1 in 100 people, with more serious side effects being rare and affecting only around 1 in 1,000 people.

Common side effects

Common side effects of the hepatitis B vaccine include:

  • discomfort around the injection site for hours or days after getting the shot
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • high temperature
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • stomach pain

Uncommon side effects

Uncommon side effects include:

  • flu-like symptoms
  • muscle ache
  • dizziness or disorientation

Rare side effects

Rare side effects include:

As with any medicine, it can be difficult to determine whether side effects are a direct result of the vaccination or something else. This is particularly true with rare side effects.

It is also possible that healthcare professionals will identify further side effects in the future. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have systems in place to continuously monitor the safety of vaccinations.

When to see a doctor

Most symptoms are mild and will go away on their own. It is common to experience discomfort at the injection site, which can last for 1 or 2 days.

Consult a doctor as soon as possible if uncommon or rare side effects occur. This is important to determine whether these are symptoms of an underlying health condition or if the vaccine is the cause.

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During pregnancy

Pregnant woman being given an injection
Data suggests that the hepatitis B vaccine does not have a negative impact on a developing fetus or the parent.

The available data indicate that the hepatitis B vaccine is safe for pregnant people. They also suggest that hepatitis B vaccines do not have a negative impact on developing fetuses or the parent.

It is crucial to prevent infection with the hepatitis virus during pregnancy, as it can cause serious harm to the parent and child.

Current U.S. recommendations state that everyone who receives prenatal care should undergo screening for hepatitis.

These screenings can help identify people who are at risk of the virus, such as those who regularly use needles.

It is particularly important that these people receive a vaccination to protect the baby from infection.

What vaccines are available?

There are four types of hepatitis B vaccine currently available in the U.S.:

  • Engerix-B
  • Recombivax HB
  • Pediarix
  • Twinrix

Each vaccine contains a protein from the hepatitis B virus. However, the vaccine is inactive, meaning that the protein from the virus is dead.

As a result, the vaccine cannot cause the virus.

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Hepatitis B can become a serious condition without proper treatment. It is also highly contagious and is easy to transmit.

The hepatitis B vaccine is effective at preventing the spread of the virus. All of the available data from several decades of use show that it is safe to use, including while pregnant and among children.

Mild side effects are relatively common and include discomfort at the injection site. More serious side effects are rare and should not be a cause for concern for most people.

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Medical News Today: Does biotin help with psoriasis?

Biotin, or vitamin B-7, is an essential nutrient for the human body. Some people use biotin supplements to manage symptoms of psoriasis.

Biotin is important for skin health. Many people believe that biotin supplements can reduce psoriasis symptoms, which can include a scaly, red rash and thinning hair.

However, no strong scientific evidence suggests that biotin supplementation effectively treats psoriasis or other skin problems in otherwise healthy people.

That said, getting extra biotin from food or supplements is generally safe, so some people may wish to try it.

In this article, we look at the effects of biotin on psoriasis, and we list some other ways to treat this chronic skin condition.

What does the research say?

Person tipping supplement pills into palm of hand.
Research does not support the use of biotin to treat psoriasis.

There is little evidence that biotin can benefit skin and hair problems, and no studies have specifically looked at the effects of biotin supplements on psoriasis.

A study from 1985 reported that infants with rash, dermatitis, or alopecia experienced improvements in symptoms after taking 100 micrograms (mcg) to 10 milligrams (mg) of biotin per day.

However, the study only included three infants, and all had biotin deficiency before treatment. Biotin deficiency is rare in healthy people.

Similarly, a 2005 case report of a single infant with low biotin levels indicated that daily supplementation with 1 mg of biotin improved both dermatitis symptoms and hair growth.

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How to use biotin for psoriasis

Because of the lack of scientific data about using biotin for psoriasis or other skin conditions in people with normal biotin levels, there is no set treatment dosage.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend an adequate daily intake of biotin for adults as:

  • 30 mcg daily for people aged 19 and older, including during pregnancy
  • 35 mcg daily while breastfeeding

Biotin is available in supplement form alone, in combination with other B vitamins, or as part of a multivitamin supplement.

Foods rich in biotin include:

  • organ meats, such as beef liver
  • fish, such as canned salmon
  • eggs
  • seeds, including sunflower seeds
  • some vegetables, such as sweet potatoes
  • nuts, including almonds

Side effects and risks

Biotin is generally safe to take, even in high doses. There is currently no evidence to suggest that taking large quantities of biotin is toxic to humans.

However, high doses can interfere with some medical tests, including those that help diagnose thyroid problems. This can lead to misdiagnoses of health conditions or inappropriate treatment.

It is a good idea to consult a doctor before taking any new supplement or herbal remedy.

People who wish to take biotin supplements should choose high-quality products from reputable suppliers. This is because the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements for quality and consistency.

Given the lack of regulation, not all supplements do what they claim. Some may contain ingredients that are not on the label, and these may interact with other medications.

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Other benefits of biotin

Woman brushing her hair in front of mirror
Biotin may help hair growth.

Biotin is essential in the human diet because it helps break down fats, glucose, and the amino acids that make up proteins. Biotin is also important for cell signaling and gene regulation.

Animal studies suggest that biotin is necessary for healthy fetal development, but more research is needed in humans.

Biotin may improve hair growth, reduce skin rashes, and encourage healthy nail growth. However, the research supporting these claims is limited to case reports and small-scale studies.

One small-scale 2015 study reported that high doses of biotin may slow the effects and progression of multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system. This study was uncontrolled and non-blind.

However, more recent research, including a study from 2017, suggests that biotin has minimal to no benefit in treating multiple sclerosis.

Alternative treatments for psoriasis

There is no cure for psoriasis, so the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and bring about remission. Remission refers to periods when symptoms reduce or disappear completely.

Potential treatments for psoriasis include taking supplements, avoiding triggers, taking medications, and using light therapy.


Some people believe that natural supplements can improve psoriasis symptoms. Beyond biotin, some of these supplements include:

  • Curcumin. This compound is present in turmeric. Animal research suggests that its anti-inflammatory effects may lead to a decrease in psoriasis-like symptoms.
  • Omega-3 fats. These acids, found in fish, nuts, and seeds, have anti-inflammatory effects. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests that some people with psoriasis may benefit from increasing their omega-3 fat intake. However, research into this treatment shows mixed results.
  • Vitamin D. Topical treatments for psoriasis sometimes contain synthetic forms of vitamin D. The evidence supporting this treatment is limited, however, and taking oral vitamin D for psoriasis remains controversial.

Avoiding triggers

Certain factors can prompt the onset of psoriasis or cause existing symptoms to get worse.

Identifying and avoiding triggers can help prevent psoriasis symptoms or reduce their severity.

Common psoriasis triggers include:

Psoriasis triggers vary from one person to another. Keeping a diary can help people identify and avoid their unique triggers.

Topical treatments

Cut up aloe vera pieces with gel in middle
Aloe vera gel is a safe natural treatment for psoriasis.

Some ointments and skin creams may help control mild to moderate psoriasis. These are available over the counter or by prescription. They include:

  • calcineurin inhibitors
  • coal tar
  • colloidal oatmeal in a lukewarm bath
  • corticosteroids
  • moisturizing creams
  • salicylic acid
  • topical retinoid medications
  • vitamin D analogs

Using natural remedies may also help some people manage their psoriasis symptoms. Some of these remedies include:

Many people will require a combination of creams or ointments and other treatments.


Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light to reduce psoriasis symptoms. The treatment involves receiving controlled doses of light in a clinic or doctor’s office.

Phototherapy may cause some adverse reactions, including skin dryness and nausea.

Systemic medications

People with severe psoriasis may need oral or injected medicines, known as systemic treatments. These medications include drugs to alter immune system function or reduce inflammation.

The side effects of systemic treatment can be severe, so doctors typically only prescribe it after trying other options.

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Some people find that taking biotin supplements improves their psoriasis symptoms. However, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to support biotin as a treatment.

Biotin is an essential nutrient, and it is safe for most people to take in supplement form. There is likely no harm in trying it for psoriasis symptom relief.

It is best, however, to speak to a doctor before using any new supplement.

If biotin does not reduce psoriasis symptoms, there are many other treatment options. These include lifestyle changes, topical products, medications, and phototherapy. People may need to work with their doctors for some time before finding an effective treatment plan.

Biotin is not a proven treatment for psoriasis. If a person wishes to try biotin or other treatments mentioned in this article, many are available to purchase online:

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Medical News Today: What are the best hepatitis C drugs?

Treatment for hepatitis C involves using medications to control symptoms of the infection, as well as drugs that help cure the infection itself. Using medications may improve the outcome of the disorder by helping to prevent severe complications from chronic liver damage.

In the past, there were not many medical treatments available to treat hepatitis C. Today, there is a variety of drugs available that can help cure the infection more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

Treatment is essential even if the person is not showing signs or symptoms of hepatitis C. This article lists the hepatitis C medications that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved, along with details about each drug, including dosage and side effects.

Understanding hepatitis C genotypes

pharmacist looking at box of medication
The genotype of hepatitis C that a person has will affect the medication available to them.

There is a range of different medications for hepatitis C because there is no single drug that works for everyone.

Medications may vary depending on the amount of liver scarring a person has and the genotype of the virus they have.

A genotype refers to the genes that make up the hepatitis C virus. All genotypes cause similar liver damage, but the long-term effects may differ.

Hepatitis C has six genotypes. Doctors represent these types by using the numbers 1 through 6. The most common genotype is type 1 hepatitis C. There are also sub-groups within these groups, such as hepatitis 1a and 1b.

Knowing which genotype a person has is crucial in choosing the right treatment.

Ribavirin (Copegus and Rebetol)

Ribavirin is one of the older drugs that doctors prescribe for hepatitis infections.

It is a general-use antiviral drug that is not specific to a particular hepatitis genotype. Doctors usually prescribe it alongside other combinations of drugs to treat various types of chronic hepatitis C infections.

Facts about ribavirin include:

  • Treatment duration depends on other drugs a person is taking.
  • Dosage depends on the person’s body weight.
  • Side effects include nausea and vomiting, difficulty sleeping, and cognitive problems, such as trouble concentrating or memory loss
  • Ribavirin may also cause congenital disabilities. Avoid ribavirin while pregnant or if trying to conceive.

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Combination medications for all genotypes

Combination drugs tend to be effective for most or all hepatitis C genotypes:

Daclatasvir and sofosbuvir (Daklinza)

Daclatasvir is one of the newer drugs for hepatitis C.

Doctors use this drug in combination with another drug called sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) to treat hepatitis C genotype 1. Doctors may also prescribe ribavirin.

Facts about these drugs include:

  • Treatment time is 12 weeks.
  • Dosage is 60 milligrams (mg) of daclatasvir and 400 mg of sofosbuvir once a day.
  • Common side effects include a headache, general fatigue, and tiredness.

Sofosbuvir and velpatasvir (Epclusa)

Doctors typically prescribe a combination of sofosbuvir and velpatasvir for people without cirrhosis. Doctors may also prescribe it alongside ribavirin for people who have severe cirrhosis.

Facts about these drugs:

  • Treatment time is 12 weeks.
  • Dosage is fixed at 400 mg of sofosbuvir and 100 mg of velpatasvir once a day with or without food.
  • Common side effects include general fatigue, a headache, and gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea or diarrhea.

Sofosbuvir, velpatasvir, and voxilapresvir (Vosevi)

This drug combination is similar to Epclusa but also includes a drug called voxilapresvir.

Facts about Vosevi include:

  • Treatment time is 12 weeks for people without cirrhosis or compensated cirrhosis (a scarred but functioning liver).
  • Dosage is fixed at 400 mg of sofosbuvir, 100 mg of velpatasvir, and 100 mg of voxilapresvir once per day with food.
  • Common side effects include tiredness, a headache, diarrhea, and nausea.

Doctors often recommend Vosevi for people who have had previous treatment for hepatitis C that did not work.

Glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Mavyret)

young woman with headache sitting in front of laptop
Headaches may be a side effect of glecaprevir and pibrentasvir.

Doctors may prescribe glecaprevir and pibrentasvir in a fixed-dose combination.

The medication may be helpful for all adults with any chronic hepatitis C genotype.

Facts about the drug include:

  • Treatment time is 8, 12, or 16 weeks. This depends on the genotype, as well as other issues such as previous treatment for hepatitis C or having cirrhosis.
  • Dosage is a fixed dose of 100 mg of glecaprevir and 40 mg of pibrentasvir, taken as three oral tablets daily with food.
  • The most common side effects include fatigue and a headache.

Medications for genotype 1

The following medications may be effective for genotype 1:

Elbasvir and grazoprevir (Zepatier)

The FDA approved this combination of elbasvir and grazoprevir in early 2016. Doctors may also prescribe ribavirin alongside Zepatier.

Facts about Zepatier include:

  • Treatment time is 12 or 16 weeks.
  • Dosage is a fixed dose of 50 mg of elbasvir and 100mg of grazoprevir once daily with or without food.
  • Common side effects include a headache, fatigue, and nausea. If the person also takes ribavirin, they may also experience shortness of breath, anemia, or rashes and itching.

Doctors may also prescribe Zepatier alongside ribavirin for genotype 4 hepatitis C. The treatment time, dosage and side effects are the same as for genotype 1.

Simeprevir (Olysio) and sofosbuvir

The combination of simeprevir with sofosbuvir may also help treat people with hepatitis C genotype 1. Doctors will sometimes also prescribe ribavirin alongside these drugs.

Facts about these drugs include:

  • Treatment time is 12 or 24 weeks.
  • Dosage is 150 mg of simeprevir and 400 mg of sofosbuvir once per day.

Common side effects at 12 weeks include:

  • fatigue
  • a headache
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • rash
  • itching
  • sensitivity to light

Additional side effects during 24-week treatment may include diarrhea and dizziness.

Ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni)

The combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir is one of the newer treatments and is the first single-dose daily tablet for genotype 1 hepatitis C. Doctors may also prescribe ribavirin alongside Harvoni.

Facts about Harvoni include:

  • Treatment time is 12 weeks.
  • Dosage is fixed at 90 mg of ledipasvir and 400 mg of sofosbuvir once per day.
  • Common side effects include a headache and general fatigue.

When people also take ribavirin, other side effects may include weakness and a cough.

Doctors also prescribe Harvoni to treat genotype 4. In this instance, the doctor may include ribavirin in the prescription.

People with genotype 5 and 6 hepatitis C may also receive Harvoni to treat the infection.

In all these cases, treatment time, dosage, and side effects remain the same as for genotype 1.

Ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir tablets co-packaged with dasabuvir tablets (Viekira Pak)

This is a relatively new group of medicines that treat genotype 1 hepatitis.

Facts about the drug pack include:

  • Treatment time is 12 or 24 weeks.
  • Dosage is a pack of tablets containing 12.5 mg of ombitasvir, 75 mg of paritaprevir, and 50 mg ritonavir, taken once daily in the morning, and one 250 mg tablet of dasabuvir taken twice daily with a meal.
  • Common side effects of this group of drugs include nausea, itching, and trouble sleeping. If the person also takes ribavirin, side effects include tiredness, nausea, fatigue, and skin reactions.

Medications for genotype 2

The following medications may be effective for genotype 2:

Sofosbuvir and ribavirin

Doctors typically recommend the combination of sofosbuvir and ribavirin to treat genotype 2 hepatitis C.

Facts about these drugs include:

  • Treatment time is 12 or 16 weeks.
  • Dosage is 400 mg of sofosbuvir, once a day with or without food. The dosage of ribavirin varies depending on body weight.
  • Side effects include a headache and fatigue.

Doctors may also prescribe this combination of drugs for genotype 3 and genotype 4 hepatitis C. The dosage and side effects are the same as for type 2, but the treatment time for 24 weeks.

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Medications for genotype 3

Daclatasvir and sofosbuvir

The combination of daclatasvir and sofosbuvir may also work for people with genotype 3. Doctors may also prescribe ribavirin alongside these drugs.

Facts about these drugs include:

  • Treatment time is 12 weeks.
  • Dosage is 60 mg daclatasvir and 400 mg sofosbuvir once a day.
  • The most common side effects are a headache and fatigue.

Medications for genotype 4

The following medications may be effective for genotype 4:

Ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir (Technivie)

woman sleeping with face to wall
Ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir can cause sleep problems.

Doctors may prescribe this combination of drugs to treat hepatitis C genotype 4. They may also prescribe ribavirin.

  • Facts about Technivie include:
  • Treatment time is 12 weeks.
  • Dosage is a fixed-dose combination of 12.5 mg ombitasvir, 75 mg paritaprevir, and 50 mg ritonavir taken once daily.
  • Common side effects include weakness, tiredness, nausea, and sleep problems.

Medications for genotype 5 and 6

Medications for genotypes 5 and 6 are often the same as for other types of hepatitis C . These have been included in the appropriate sections, above.

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There are many effective hepatitis C medications.

By working directly with their doctor, most people can find an effective treatment that helps manage symptoms. It is essential that the doctor knows about any other medications the person is taking, as well as any side effects they experience.

People should note that almost all hepatitis C medications have very high cure rates. One of the keys to successful treatment is completing the drug regimen and following the doctor’s advice.

Anyone who experiences a severe reaction from their hepatitis C treatment should talk to their doctor about other options.

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Medical News Today: Insomnia breakthrough: Scientists identify 5 types

There are five types of insomnia, each with its own distinct features, according to a recent study.
middle aged woman covering her eyes
New research concludes that insomnia may vary by personality type, among other factors.

Scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience studied thousands of people who had voluntarily signed up to an online sleep registry.

They concluded that insomnia has five subtypes that differ by personality traits, risk for depression, brain activity, and response to treatment.

The team suggests that the findings will likely speed up research on insomnia and lead to better, more personalized treatments.

The Lancet Psychiatry journal has now published a paper on the study.

“While we have always considered insomnia to be one disorder,” says Tessa Blanken of the Department of Sleep and Cognition, “it actually represents five different disorders.”

She likens progress in insomnia research to that of dementia, which has uncovered subtypes with marked differences in underlying brain mechanisms.

Dementia research progressed much faster after scientists identified its various types, which include Alzheimer’s disease, frontal temporal dementia, and vascular dementia.

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Insomnia and consequences

Insomnia is one of the “most common complaints” that people raise with their doctors. The main symptoms include insufficient and poor-quality sleep and finding it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Individuals with insomnia often experience considerable distress and disruption of daily functioning.

They rarely wake up feeling refreshed and often feel sleepy and tired for the rest of the day. They can also feel depressed, anxious, and irritable.

The condition thwarts efforts to do well at work and school, as it undermines a person’s ability to focus, pay attention, remember, and learn.

Acute, or short-term, insomnia lasts for a few days or weeks. This often results from traumatic events or pressure from family and work situations. Other people have the ongoing or chronic form of insomnia that lasts for months and longer.

While scientists have attempted to study the brain mechanisms of insomnia, their findings have been mostly inconsistent.

There is a similar pattern with treatment effectiveness: it works for some, but not for others.

Blanken and her colleagues suggest that this lack of consistency could be because “subtypes of this disease remain unrecognized.”

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5 types of insomnia

So, the researchers decided to investigate further with a study in three parts.

First, they analyzed the results of up to 34 different questionnaires that 4,322 volunteers in the Netherlands Sleep Registry had filled in.

The questionnaires measured personality traits that scientists have linked to differences in brain function and structure.

Using a method called “latent class analyses” on the questionnaire data, the researchers identified five types of insomnia, as follows:

  • Type 1 “highly distressed”: Scores high on distressing personality traits, such as neuroticism and “feeling down or tense.”
  • Type 2 “moderately distressed but reward-sensitive”: Scores indicate that responses to “pleasurable emotions” are intact.
  • Type 3 “moderately distressed and reward-insensitive.”
  • Type 4 “slightly distressed with high reactivity”: Insomnia symptoms vary with “environment and life events.”
  • Type 5 “slightly distressed with low reactivity.”

They then confirmed their findings in the second part of the study by evaluating a “second, non-overlapping cohort” of 251 volunteers that they had recruited from new members of the sleep registry.

Finally, 5 years later, in the third part of the study, the team re-evaluated 215 volunteers from the first sample.

These results revealed that individuals had mostly conserved their type of insomnia from 5 years earlier “indicating a high stability of the classification.”

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Other differences among types of insomnia

Further examination also uncovered other measurable differences in the five types of insomnia.

For example, electroencephalograms revealed distinct differences in brain responses to external stimuli. This strengthens the idea that brain research might reveal some underlying mechanisms.

The researchers also found that the insomnia types they identified differed in their responses to treatment with drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Also, the risk of developing depression varied widely among the insomnia types. The risk “was up to five times different between groups,” note the authors.

The researchers have already begun to investigate ways to prevent depression in people with the type of insomnia that carries the highest risk.

They were surprised that the types did not vary on symptom-related factors, such as difficulty getting to sleep as against early waking.

They suggest that earlier studies that have tried to identify insomnia types may have failed because they focused too much on such symptoms.

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Medical News Today: ALS: A new therapy may be in sight

New research makes a discovery that “suggests a clear approach for developing a potential therapy for ALS.”
mum and daughter in wheelchair laughing
New experiments may provide ‘great hope’ for people living with ALS.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative condition that affects a person’s motor neurons.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), people with ALS experience gradual paralysis, which often results in death from respiratory failure within 3–5 years. Approximately 10 percent of people who have the condition, however, go on to live for 10 years.

The NINDS also quote the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2016 estimate that 14,000–15,000 people in the United States have the condition. ALS currently has no known cure.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved two drugs that slow down the disease, albeit modestly: riluzole and edaravone. Clinical trials have shown that riluzole extends survival by a few months, while edaravone improves the daily functioning of people with ALS.

Generally, however, individuals living with ALS mainly benefit from supportive or palliative care.

New research may help change these limited treatment options, as scientists have uncovered a gene which could serve as a new drug target.

Joseph Klim, a postdoctoral fellow in the Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology in Cambridge, MA, is the first author of the new paper, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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‘Experiments provide great hope for patients’

Previous research has found that the protein TDP-43 aggregates in the neurons of people with ALS. Instead of remaining in the nucleus of these cells — as it would in a healthy neuron — in ALS, the protein leaves the nucleus and accumulates in the cell’s cytoplasm.

This discovery led researchers to believe that the neurons’ “trash-disposal” system was genetically faulty in a way that affected TDP-43, but they did not know which genes were responsible.

TDP-43 binds to RNA, which communicates the genetic information needed to activate a certain protein.

In this study, Klim and colleagues decided to investigate every type of RNA that the TDP-43 protein in human neurons regulates. They also genetically modified TDP-43 and studied the effects.

Using motor neurons created from human stem cells, the scientists decreased the TDP-43 protein and examined how gene expression changed as a result.

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RNA sequencing revealed that Stathmin2 (STMN2), a gene that plays a key role in the growth and repair of neurons, changed significantly and consistently along with TDP-43.

“Once we had a connection between the TDP-43 and the loss of this other critical gene, STMN2, we could see how a motor neuron might begin to fail in ALS,” Klim explains.

Kevin Eggan, who is a professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard and the study’s corresponding author, explains how the scientists reached their results.

“With the discovery that our human stem cell model had predicted exactly what was happening in patients, [Klim] went on to test in this system whether fixing Stathmin2 could rescue the motor neuron degeneration in our dish caused by disturbing TDP-43.”

“In a beautiful series of experiments that I believe provide great hope for patients, he went on to show this was exactly the case: rescuing expression of Stathmin2 rescued motor neuron growth,” says Prof. Eggan.

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Kim adds, “We discovered that when TDP-43 levels are diminished in the nucleus […], it becomes impossible for STMN2 to create a vital component for repairing or growing motor neuron axons.”

The researchers also analyzed human neurons that they obtained postmortem from people who had lived with ALS. These findings further replicated their stem cell results.

“These experiments point towards a clear path for testing whether repairing Stathmin2 in patients can slow or stop their disease,” says Prof. Eggan.

The discovery we have made suggests a clear approach for developing a potential therapy for ALS — one that would intervene in all but a very small number of individuals, regardless of the genetic cause of their disease.”

Prof. Kevin Eggan

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Medical News Today: What are the benefits of oregano oil?

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    Carroll, J. F., Demirci, B., Kramer, M., Bernier, U. R., Agramonte, N. M., Baser, K. H. C., & Tabanca, N. (2017, February 16). Repellency of the Origanum onites L. essential oil and constituents to the lone star tick and yellow fever mosquito. Natural Product Research31(18), 2192–2197. Retrieved from

    Chedid, V., Dhalla, S., Clarke, J. O., Roland, B. C., Dunbar, K. B., Koh, J., … Mullin, G. E. (2014, May 1). Herbal therapy is equivalent to rifaximin for the treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Global Advances in Health and Medicine3(3), 16–24. Retrieved from

    Dantas, B. P., Alves, Q. L., de Assis, K. S., Ribeiro, T. P., de Almeida, M. M., de Vasconcelos, A. P., … Silva, D. F. (2015, April–June). Participation of the TRP channel in the cardiovascular effects induced by carvacrol in normotensive rat [Abstract]. Vascular Pharmacology67–69, 48–58. Retrieved from

    de Castro, R. D., de Souza, T. M. P. A., Bezerra, L. M. D., Ferreira, G. L. S., de Brito Costa, E. M. M., & Cavalcanti, A. L. (2015, November 24). Antifungal activity and mode of action of thymol and its synergism with nystatin against Candida species involved with infections in the oral cavity: An in vitro study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine15(1), 417. Retrieved from

    Khaki, M. R. A., Pahlavan, Y., Sepehri, G., Sheibani, V., & Pahlavan, B. (2013). Antinociceptive effect of aqueous extract of Origanum vulgare L. in male rats: Possible involvement of the GABAergic system. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research12(2), 407–413. Retrieved from

    Leyva-López, N., Gutiérrez-Grijalva, E. P., Vazquez-Olivo, G., & Heredia, J. B. (2017, June 14). Essential oils of oregano: Biological activity beyond their antimicrobial properties. Molecules22(6), 989. Retrieved from

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Medical News Today: How to burn more fat naturally

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Medical News Today: Experimental drug may prevent Alzheimer’s disease

A drug that scientists are currently developing to treat stroke survivors might also help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia Alzheimer's brain scan
Researchers are trialing a new treatment that may help people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million people in the United States are living with the condition.

Current medications can only relieve some symptoms of the disease, and there is not yet any way to halt its progression.

The neurodegeneration that occurs in people with Alzheimer’s results from the buildup of a protein called beta-amyloid in the brain.

Beta-amyloid is present in the healthy brain, but incorrectly folded proteins can accumulate to form amyloid plaques.

These plaques reduce blood flow to the brain, leading to the breakdown of brain cells.

Over the years, researchers have investigated many pharmacological routes to tackle these plaques, but, to date, none have led to the development of effective drugs.

Recently, researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles explored an innovative new compound that the scientific community is already scrutinizing.

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Introducing 3K3A-APC

3K3A-APC is a modified version of activated C protein, which is a blood-based protein that protects brain cells and blood vessels from damage due to inflammation.

Activated C protein is naturally a powerful anticoagulant. However, the alterations that scientists have made to the newly modified version has reduced its anticoagulant properties by around 90 percent while maintaining its protective benefits.

Researchers have already tested 3K3A-APC in animal models of multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and traumatic brain injury with encouraging results.

The drug is currently under development to treat brain bleeds in people who have experienced a stroke. So far, the drug seems to reduce bleeding in the brain with few side effects or safety concerns.

As a result of 3K3A-APC’s positive performance in other trials, the authors of the current study decided to pit it against Alzheimer’s. Lead author Berislav V. Zlokovic, Ph.D. writes:

“Because of its neuroprotective, vasculoprotective, and anti-inflammatory activities in multiple models of neurological disorders, we investigated whether 3K3A-APC can also protect the brain from the toxic effects of [beta-amyloid] toxin in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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The team’s recent findings feature in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

The scientists carried out their study using mice with a number of genetic mutations that research has shown to increase Alzheimer’s risk. These animals produce high levels of beta-amyloid and demonstrate both cognitive decline and neuroinflammation.

As the researchers had theorized, 3K3A-APC reduced the buildup of toxic protein in the brains of these mice.

Also, the mice did not demonstrate the expected memory deficits that protein buildup produces, and cerebral blood flow was normal. In Alzheimer’s disease, signs of inflammation in the brain are common. In mice that received 3K3A-APC, the team noted significantly reduced inflammation.

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How does 3K3A-APC work?

Next, the scientists wanted to understand how this experimental drug was imparting its benefits. They found that 3K3A-APC reduced the amount of an enzyme called beta-secretase 1 (BACE1), which nerve cells create. BACE1 is necessary for the formation of beta-amyloid; without it, plaques cannot form.

In the past, scientists have tried using various compounds to block BACE1. So far, this has not led to new drugs. However, they have shown that interfering with BACE1 reduces Alzheimer’s plaques in the brain.

This current medication uses a slightly different approach as it blocks the production of the enzyme rather than blocking the enzyme itself.

The researchers believe that 3K3A-APC might be most beneficial during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease before there is significant beta-amyloid buildup.

Having reviewed earlier experiments looking at the role of BACE1, the authors write, “Collectively, these studies suggest that the optimal timing for treatment of [beta-amyloid] pathology with BACE1 inhibitors is early in the disease course, before widespread [beta-amyloid] plaque formation occurs.”

Our present data support the idea that 3K3A-APC holds potential as an effective anti-[beta-amyloid] therapy for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease in humans.”

Berislav V. Zlokovic

As ever, before a new treatment can make it to market, much more research will be necessary in other animal models and, eventually, humans.

As Alzheimer’s is currently untreatable, finding a new way to approach the disease is invaluable. These results are exciting and, no doubt, follow-up work will be underway shortly.

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Medical News Today: Is corn healthful?

The widespread use of corn in food products has led to debate about whether corn is healthful. However, corn has nutritional benefits, and there is no evidence that it is harmful to health.

The internet is full of conflicting advice about corn. Some alternative health sites focus on the perceived harms of genetically-modified organism (GMO) corn or they dismiss corn as a potentially dangerous grain. Corn proponents, however, insist that corn forms a core part of a healthful diet.

Corn is in everything from soda to cereal. According to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Americans consume about 160 pounds of corn per person each year. This consumption has raised concerns about whether corn is replacing more healthful foods.

Similarly to most foods, corn is neither a cure-all nor a poison. In moderation, it can form a healthful part of most people’s diets.

In this article, we explore the nutritional content and potential health benefits of corn. We also discuss risks, health myths, and some tips for eating and preparing corn.


Corn on the cob on plate.
Corn contains fiber and protein but is low in vitamins and minerals.

Today’s corn is much different from the corn that the indigenous peoples of North America once grew. Through selective breeding, farmers have steadily domesticated corn, changing its size, color, and flavor in the process.

Most people think of corn as sweet yellow corn, a large form of maize. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 90-gram (g) ear of fresh corn contains:

Compared to many other fruits and vegetables, corn is low in vitamins and minerals. A 90-gram (g) ear of fresh corn contains:

  • 4 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A
  • 6 percent of the RDI for vitamin C
  • 2 percent of the RDI for iron
  • 0 percent of the RDI for calcium

Many nutrition advocates have expressed concern about corn’s high proportion of carbohydrates compared to its low concentration of vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates are filling, so they argue that corn may replace more nutritionally dense foods.

Studies of diets that exclude corn, such as paleo and ketogenic diets, contain too many variables to isolate the benefits of corn avoidance. However, there is little other evidence to suggest that eating corn is harmful, especially in its organic, ancient form. In moderation, corn can still be a part of a healthful diet.

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Health benefits

Corn offers several potential health benefits. These include:


Producers can grow corn easily and quickly in many different regions of the world. Hybridization and domestication have made corn even easier to grow, making corn an affordable commodity.

For people with very low incomes, especially those living in developing nations, corn is a cheap and ready source of calories, carbohydrates, and protein.


Some corn varieties are rich in antioxidants, specifically in a group of antioxidants called carotenoids.

Antioxidants combat the effects of harmful free radicals in the body. Research suggests that free radicals may play a role in the aging process and the development of a number of chronic diseases.

Many fruits and vegetables, including dark leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes, are also rich in carotenoids.

Dietary fiber

People eating corn on the cob at outdoor BBQ
Compared with other vegetables, corn is low in nutrients.

Corn, similarly to many grains, legumes, and vegetables, contains dietary fiber.

However, the amount of fiber in corn is often lower than that from other sources. For instance, a half cup of cooked navy beans provides 9.6 g of fiber, while a half cup of cooked corn provides only 2.1 g.

Fiber can help with digestion and reduce the risk of constipation. Some research also suggests fiber may help people live longer. A large 2011 study found a correlation between dietary fiber intake and a lower overall risk of premature death, especially from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases.


Although corn is technically a grain, it is also gluten-free. This makes corn a safe option for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance who want to add grains to their diet.

High in protein

Corn is higher in protein than many other vegetables, making it a good choice for vegetarians and vegans, or for people hoping to eat more protein from nonanimal sources.

Some studies also suggest that a diet rich in protein may support healthful weight loss by either reducing hunger or helping the body burn extra calories.


The primary health concern that nutrition advocates have with corn is that it may act as a filler, which may cause people to eat too many carbohydrates and too few of more nutrient-dense foods.

According the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, more than a third of corn people eat in the U.S. is in the shape of high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS. This sugar, which is a derivative of cornstarch, has triggered numerous debates about manufacturers adding sweeteners to consumables.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that there is no compelling evidence that HFCS is more harmful than other sugars. However, the FDA also recommends that everyone limit their consumption of all added sugars, including HFCS and regular sugar.

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Health concerns

Several concerns about corn have become popular, especially on message boards and alternative health sites. We discuss some common concerns below:

GMO corn

Some natural health advocates argue that GMO corn is dangerous. While farmers in America have been using GMO crops for a long time, a 2013 review stated that data is scarce regarding GMO crops and their potential health effects.

A 2012 study, appearing in Food and Chemical Toxicology, found that rats who ate GMO corn experienced negative health effects. However, the journal subsequently retracted the paper amid concerns about fraud and faulty data.

The journal editors never uncovered evidence of fraud, but they did find that the data was inadequate, which fundamentally undermined the study’s findings. Also, an anti-GMO organization helped fund the study.

According to 2015 article from Harvard University’s Science in the News, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Medical Association have concluded that GMO crops are safe for human consumption.

Corn is high in sugar

Some people confuse corn with HFCS, which is a sugar. Corn does contain naturally occurring sugars, but the amounts are comparable with those present in other starchy vegetables, although slightly higher.

The body cannot digest corn

Corn is high in cellulose, which is an insoluble fiber that the body cannot digest. However, the body breaks down the other components of corn.

Chewing corn for longer can also help the digestive system break down cellulose walls to access more of the nutrients.

Some producers still use an ancient method of corn preparation known as nixtamalization. This process involves soaking and cooking the corn in lime, which is an alkaline solution containing calcium hydroxide.

The producers then wash and hull the corn for processing into food products, such as cornmeal, tortillas, tamales, and others.

Nixtamalization enhances digestibility, flavor, and aroma while reducing mycotoxins, which come from fungal contamination.

Corn is high in fat

Naturally, corn is not high in fat. However, many people prepare it in a way that increases the fat content. Adding butter and other fats or oils to corn can turn it into a high-fat, high-calorie food.

Tips for eating and preparing corn

Sweet corn in bowl
Corn is edible in its raw state.

Most people prefer to eat corn after cooking it, often with butter, oils, and seasonings.

It is also safe to eat corn raw. Many people find that young, tender corn tastes best when raw.

The kernels can add texture to salads, soups, and casseroles. The USDA offer the following tips for preparing and storing corn:

  • Store uncooked corn in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • It is safe to freeze cooked corn at zero degrees Fahrenheit for up to 6 months.
  • When using prepackaged corn, check for the “best by” or “best if used by” date.
  • Remove corn kernels by placing corn stem-first into a bowl of shallow water. While holding the corn, cut kernels away from the cob with a knife.

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Corn is not a harmful food, but while it does have several nutritional benefits, it is not particularly rich in any specific nutrient and contains less fiber than other complex carbohydrates.

Some people may have dietary restrictions that can make corn a poor choice to eat. For instance, people trying to reduce carbohydrate intake should avoid corn as it is high in carbs.

People seeking a high-protein diet may want to choose nuts, lean meat, fish, and dairy products instead since they are higher in protein than corn.

There is no harm in eliminating corn from the diet, so it is perfectly safe for people to avoid. However, many products contain corn and corn byproducts, so it is necessary to check ingredient labels. People concerned about the healthfulness of corn should talk to a doctor or dietitian.

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