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Facts versus Fiction – Breaking Down COVID-19 Myths

Jeannette Sanchez wrote . . . . . . . . .

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, rumors and misinformation about the virus seem to be spreading just as quickly, if not more quickly, than the virus itself. In the midst of a pandemic, false information can be dangerous and lead to panic, making it difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction.

Experts with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) weigh in on the most common myths about COVID-19:

MYTH: Vitamin C can help fight against the virus

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that can help boost the immune system and is found in many fruits and vegetables. However, research shows that for most people, taking vitamin C won’t even fight against the common cold.

“Studies show that vitamin C has no significant benefit in preventing or treating the common cold for most patients, and COVID-19 is not the common cold,” said Joyce Samuel, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and a pediatric nephrologist with UT Physicians.

Susan Wootton, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at McGovern Medical School and an infectious disease pediatrician with UT Physicians, adds that there is no current data to support that extra vitamin C will fight against COVID-19. “In fact, our body can only absorb a certain amount of vitamin C at a time and any excess will be excreted. So those who are stocking up on the vitamin are not benefiting from the extra intake,” said Wootton.

MYTH: The virus will die off once temperatures rises

It is unknown whether COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, will follow the flu season and disappear during warmer months. Although it can present similar respiratory problems, COVID-19 is different from the virus strains that cause the flu.

“Because this is a new virus, we aren’t sure,” said Catherine Troisi, PhD, epidemiologist and associate professor in the Department of Management, Policy, and Community Health with UTHealth School of Public Health. “We hope that warmer weather will help, but there is no guarantee. What ultimately helps is that summertime means kids are not in school anymore, and they are less likely to pass viruses around.”

MYTH: Drinking water every 15 minutes reduces your risk of contracting the virus

Another rumor suggests that drinking water every 15 minutes will help flush the virus through the body. Although drinking water can help with dehydration, no evidence shows it will protect against contracting COVID-19. Wootton, said there is no data to support this claim. “However, it is very important to stay both hydrated and well rested when recovering from any infection,” she added. Gargling warm water won’t help either, warned Luis Ostrosky, MD, professor of internal medicine at McGovern Medical School and an infectious disease specialist with UT Physicians.

MYTH: Masks protect against COVID-19

Face masks are only being recommended for health care workers who may be treating patients infected with COVID-19, or patients who are ill. “Those who are not ill or on the frontlines of medicine may not benefit from wearing a mask,” said Michael Chang, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at McGovern Medical School, and an infectious disease specialist with UT Physicians, who is affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “Wearing a mask when you are not sick essentially gives you a false sense of confidence that you don’t need to wash your hands as often, or not touch your face as much. And, because masks can be uncomfortable, you may actually touch your face more. In addition, contamination can occur when masks are taken off and put back on,” he said. Just keep it simple and leave the face masks for the health care workers or sick people who truly need them.

MYTH: COVID-19 can mutate into a deadlier strain

All viruses mutate over time, and COVID-19 is no different. However, that does not mean the virus is becoming deadlier. According to Chang, virus mutations are not bad; in fact, they typically make a virus less deadly. “Viruses mutate pretty frequently, but not all mutations have to be bad. Many mutations in viruses are silent, and some can even lead to a strain that is less fit with less virulence. In fact, many of our live-virus vaccines are essentially mutated wild-type strains,” he said. “Given all of the above, it is very unlikely for COVID-19 to develop a mutation that makes it deadlier.”

MYTH: Using hot water to wash your hands will get germs off better than cold water

Frequent handwashing is said to be one of the best ways to limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. As simple as it sounds, soap and water are the best approach to preventing the further spread of germs, and the temperature of the water when washing does not matter. In fact, Chang said, “when washing hands with soap and water, it’s really the mechanical scrubbing action that’s cleaning your hands. You can use warm or cold water. You have to be sure you wash/scrub long enough (at least 20 seconds) and completely dry your hands.”

Source: The University of Texas

Mexican Chicken with Grilled Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

2 large tomatoes
1 small red onion
2 jalapeno peppers
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
4 boneless single chicken breasts, with skin
1 avocado, peeled
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Method

  1. Cut tomatoes and red onion into slices 1/2 inch thick. Cut jalapenos in half and remove seeds.
  2. Place tomatoes, onion, jalapenos and garlic cloves in grill basket or directly on grill and grill for about 2 minutes on each side, with lid down, until vegetables are charred and garlic skin comes off. Remove from grill, cool and chop.
  3. Stir in orange juice, lemon juice and 2 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt.
  4. Chop 1/2 cup tomato mixture finely. Spread 2 tbsp finely chopped mixture under skin of each chicken breast.
  5. Brush chicken with remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Grill for 5 minutes per side or until juices are clear.
  6. Chop avocado while chicken is cooking and stir into remaining tomato mixture. Stir in coriander.
  7. Slice chicken into 1/2-inch slices and serve with salsa.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Home for Dinner

Soy-rich Foods Like Tofu May Help Lower Heart Disease Risk

Eating tofu and other plant-based proteins may have more health benefits than people realize, according to new research.

Foods like tofu that are rich in isoflavones – an estrogen-like substance made by soy plants – could lower risk of heart disease, particularly in younger and postmenopausal women.

“Other human trials and animal studies of isoflavones, tofu and cardiovascular risk markers also have indicated positive effects, so people with an elevated risk of developing heart disease should evaluate their diets,” said lead study author Dr. Qi Sun in a news release. Sun is a researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“If their diet is packed with unhealthy foods, such as red meat, sugary beverages and refined carbohydrates, they should switch to healthier alternatives. Tofu and other isoflavone-rich, plant-based foods are excellent protein sources and alternatives to animal proteins.”

The study, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, examined data from 200,000 people and found eating at least one serving of tofu a week was linked to an 18% lower risk of heart disease compared to those who rarely ate tofu. Those who benefited the most were young women before menopause or postmenopausal women who were not taking hormones.

Sources of isoflavones, aside from tofu, include edamame, chickpeas, fava beans, pistachios and peanuts. Soymilk, a more processed form of soy often sweetened with sugar, was not significantly associated with lower heart disease risk in the new study.

Cultures that consume high levels of isoflavone-rich foods, such as in China and Japan, have lower heart disease risk compared to other cultures with fewer vegetables and more meat in their diets, but Sun said that association needs more research.

And research on the health benefits has been split. In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration backed claims that soy protects against heart disease, but since then studies have been inconclusive. The AHA’s 2006 diet and lifestyle recommendations and a science advisory that year on soy protein, isoflavones and cardiovascular health found minimal evidence that isoflavones have any cardiovascular benefits.

Sun said eating more tofu isn’t a “magic bullet” to staving off heart disease. He noted the results should be interpreted with caution because other factors – exercise, family history and lifestyle habits – can influence heart health.

“Overall diet quality is still critical to consider, and tofu can be a very healthy component.”

Source: American Heart Association

Inflammation in the Brain Linked to Several Forms of Dementia

Inflammation in the brain may be more widely implicated in dementias than was previously thought, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge. The researchers say it offers hope for potential new treatments for several types of dementia.

Inflammation is usually the body’s response to injury and stress – such as the redness and swelling that accompanies an injury or infection. However, inflammation in the brain – known as neuroinflammation – has been recognised and linked to many disorders including depression, psychosis and multiple sclerosis. It has also recently been linked to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study published today in the journal Brain, a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge set out to examine whether neuroinflammation also occurs in other forms of dementia, which would imply that it is common to many neurodegenerative diseases.

The team recruited 31 patients with three different types of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD is a family of different conditions resulting from the build-up of several abnormal ‘junk’ proteins in the brain.

Patients underwent brain scans to detect inflammation and the junk proteins. Two Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans each used an injection with a chemical ‘dye’, which lights up special molecules that reveal either the brain’s inflammatory cells or the junk proteins.

In the first scan, the dye lit up the cells causing neuroinflammation. These indicate ongoing damage to the brain cells and their connections. In the second scan, the dye binds to the different types of ‘junk’ proteins found in FTD.

The researchers showed that across the brain, and in all three types of FTD, the more inflammation in each part of the brain, the more harmful build-up of the junk proteins there is. To prove the dyes were picking up the inflammation and harmful proteins, they went on to analyse under the microscope 12 brains donated after death to the Cambridge Brain Bank.

“We predicted the link between inflammation in the brain and the build-up of damaging proteins, but even we were surprised by how tightly these two problems mapped on to each other,” said Dr Thomas Cope from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Cambridge.

Dr Richard Bevan Jones added, “There may be a vicious circle where cell damage triggers inflammation, which in turn leads to further cell damage.”

The team stress that further research is needed to translate this knowledge of inflammation in dementia into testable treatments. But, this new study shows that neuroinflammation is a significant factor in more types of dementia than was previously thought.

“It is an important discovery that all three types of frontotemporal dementia have inflammation, linked to the build-up of harmful abnormal proteins in different parts of the brain. The illnesses are in other ways very different from each other, but we have found a role for inflammation in all of them,” says Professor James Rowe from the Cambridge Centre for Frontotemporal Dementia and a Fellow of Darwin College .

“This, together with the fact that it is known to play a role in Alzheimer’s, suggests that inflammation is part of many other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. This offers hope that immune-based treatments might help slow or prevent these conditions.”

Source: University of Ccambridge