From fasting to CBD, these new studies may surprise you

Naveed Saleh, MD, MS | October 15, 2021

During the past couple of years, COVID-19 monopolized research interests in nearly every field of medicine. But as the pandemic continues, other lines of research are now returning to the fore.

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Male scientist looking through microscope

While COVID has certainly dominated the research landscape, other study areas, from vaping to fasting to CBD, are worthy of attention.

Of course, these other studies have inevitably been informed by trends established during the pandemic—naturally, preparedness for the next public-health crisis is on everyone’s mind and emerging studies heed these concerns.

But the coronavirus is not the only topic that captivates the minds of researchers. Let’s take a look at several new studies that touch on public health issues that are not necessarily related to COVID, but are intriguing nonetheless.

Intermittent fasting

For those who are still unsure about the potential benefits of intermittent fasting, a recent review may prove convincing.

According to authors publishing in the Annual Review of Nutrition, various forms of intermittent fasting assessed resulted in mild to moderate weight loss between 1% and 8% from baseline, with 10% to 30% decreases in energy intake. Intermittent fasting may also lower blood pressure, lipid levels, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance, as well as regulate appetite and enhance gut diversity in the microbiome.

The researchers found that intermittent fasting is safe and does not yield energy-level disturbances or mediate disordered eating behaviors.

In a press release, the lead author of the study stated, “We noted that intermittent fasting is not better than regular dieting; both produce the same amount of weight loss and similar changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation. People love intermittent fasting because it’s easy. People need to find diets that they can stick to long term. It’s definitely effective for weight loss and it’s gained popularity because there are no special foods or apps necessary. You can also combine it with other diets, like Keto.” Click here to read more about the emerging corpus of research on fasting, on MDLinx.

Social determinants of health

According to Healthy People 2030, social determinants of health (SDOH) refer to the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age; they impact a gamut of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes/risks. Although documenting SDOH may take extra time, these factors can enhance patient outcomes.

In a recent study published in Population Health Management, researchers mined the 2018-2019 National Electronic Health Records to gain insight into SDOH documentation and after-hours work among physicians. Among 303,389 US physicians, 84.3% noted documentation of SDOH information.

Physicians who documented SDOH were usually aged 50 years or younger, and this documentation did not necessarily spill into after-hours documentation.  For more information about social determinants and how they play into healthcare equity, click here.

Vaping

In the pre-pandemic world, vaping was a topic of great interest. It continues to be a major threat to the health of various segments of the population—especially the youth.

In a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health and Research, authors mined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 2015-2018 to glean relationships between depression, inflammation, and e-cigarette use. Of note, vaping and depression are associated, with both also being linked to depression. Nevertheless, the link between vaping and depression has yet to be elucidated.

“While a pattern of greater ORs [odds ratios] for depression among e-cigarette users with elevated CRP [C-reactive protein] provides provocative findings that might suggest a potential role of inflammation in the association between vaping and depression, we failed to find evidence that inflammation clearly moderates this association,” wrote the authors.

The researchers noted, however, that depression among e-cigarette users could still be influenced by systemic inflammation, with further research needed to flesh out the effect of inflammation on depression in those who vape.  

CBD and frontline health workers

The nonpsychotomimetic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) has a favorable safety/tolerability profile, and has been found to exert anxiolytic effect in those with social anxiety disorders in single doses ranging from 300 to 600 mg to daily administration of 300 mg for 4 weeks, as well as antidepressant and anti-inflammatory effects in preclinical studies.

In the current JAMA study, Brazilian researchers examined the potential for CBD to reduce symptoms of emotional exhaustion and burnout in frontline healthcare workers treating COVID-19. 

For 28 days, investigators administered 150 mg of CBD twice a day plus standard care or standard care alone to 118 physicians, nurses, and physical therapists (66.9% women; mean age, 33.6 years). They found that CBD therapy decreased symptoms of burnout and emotional exhaustion in frontline workers treating COVID-19.

The authors wrote, “Burnout among health care workers is an important issue for health care systems, with a direct impact on quality of care. No pharmacological treatment is currently available for the prevention or treatment of burnout symptoms and emotional exhaustion among frontline health care professionals working with patients with COVID-19, even though several studies have reported that depression, anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD symptoms are more common in this population. Therefore, the results of the present study could have a relevant impact on the mental health of health care staff worldwide.”

Ready to read more about intriguing new research? Check out Reproductive research: Sex may never be the same, on MDLinx

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