The new year can spur the urge to make changes to your lifestyle. Diet advice tends to be heavily marketed this time of year with claims of benefits to health and self-esteem. But diets are often restrictive and exclusionary, and even if they provide short-term benefits, they tend to be unsustainable in the long term and in some cases can lead to disordered eating. Scientists and nutrition experts recommend looser, more inclusive approaches to eating, such as the pesco-Mediterranean diet, an eating pattern that’s high in plants, nuts, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, and fish or seafood. …

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that human beings can forge connections on screens to temporarily replace real face-to-face human interaction. And I’m not just talking about daily Zoom calls with your colleagues. Spending time with fictional characters on television or in movies can mimic the benefits of seeing real-world friends or loved ones, reports science writer Markham Heid in Elemental — especially, if you’re rewatching your favorite shows or movies.

Medium’s Sam Zabell also explains why binge-watching her favorite Christmas movies brings comfort: human brains are conditioned to feel good when we watch our favorite, cheesy, sometimes trashy Christmas…

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. “Everyone telling you, ‘Be of good cheer,’” sings Andy Williams in his 1963 holiday tune. But this holiday season, it might take a little more than a nostalgic song to get into the holiday spirit. For some people, that might be a mug of eggnog or a glass or two of wine. There’s a widespread assumption that alcohol cheers you up and reduces stress. And while it’s true that alcohol is an anesthetic and can blunt the brain and body’s response to stressful events, the relationship between alcohol and stress relief is complex. Writer Markham Heid details the science behind why sipping a hot toddy under the Christmas tree can feel like relief — and why it’s healthier for the brain to drink in small doses. …

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My parents and me in Germany, Christmas 2019. Who would have known…

What Metallica has to do with me pondering whether I should travel to Germany for Christmas and spend time with my parents.

In a normal year, I would see my parents (70 and 68 years old) at least twice. They would fly to the best city in the world for a summer vacation, spend a few weeks with me and take videos of Central Park squirrels and firetrucks passing by. In December, I would travel to my small hometown in Germany near Cologne for Christmas and sleep in my childhood bed (I’m 6'4), right under a fading, dusty ‘Ride the Lightning’ Metallica poster (teenage rebellion, you know?). …

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I’m European, and today’s headlines disheartened me. With an average of more than 100,000 new infections per day over the past week, Europe now accounts for about one-third of new cases reported worldwide, the New York Times reports. That means the “Old World” has overtaken the U.S. in new cases of Covid-19. A surprise? Not really, unfortunately.

While Europe actually had the virus under control for a while, the mistakes that lead to the situation on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean are reminiscent of what went wrong in the U.S, and particularly in certain U.S. states: In several European countries, lockdowns were lifted early and abruptly, and people thought they could return to their normal lives (normal as in clubbing without masks, you know?). …

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Credit: krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty Images

Men are nearly twice as likely to become severely sick and die from Covid-19 compared to women, research has shown. Now, a new study from Yale, published on Wednesday in Nature, gives new clues as to why men fare so much worse with the coronavirus.

It’s the first study to look at the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 by sex, and it found that men produce an overall weaker immune response to the virus than women. …

Dear Reader,

This is Felix Gussone, Elemental’s senior health editor, filling in for Alexandra, who’s recharging her batteries after nearly six months of nonstop Covid-19 coverage. 😱

At this stage of the pandemic, we understand significantly more about the virus’ long- and short-term symptoms, testing, and treatment options. But what if you had all the classic Covid-19 symptoms, maybe still have them, but weren’t able to get a positive test to prove infection? Countless patients are currently in this position — dismissed by their doctors despite months of lingering symptoms, simply because there’s no “proof” that they had Covid-19 in the first place.


Felix Gussone, MD

Senior Editor, Elemental

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