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A summary of important health news from the past week.

Are Probiotics Effective for Weight Loss?

By: Jillian Kubala

Probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotic supplements contain large doses of live bacteria, typically Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, that may contribute to improving the composition of colonic gut bacteria and promote health. Studies have shown that people with overweight and obesity have different gut bacteria composition than people who are not overweight. A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis that included twelve randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 821 participants found that those who received probiotic supplementation had more significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference, body fat, and BMI than control groups. However, researchers warn that taking probiotics too frequently may lead to the transfer of resistant genes to infectious pathogens. More study is needed in the field of probiotics, but the preliminary research seems to suggest that they are useful in weight loss when used in moderation.

What it’s like to die from COVID-19

By: Katherine Harmon Courage

Four physicians have shared the reality of what it’s like to die from COVID. Described as a “sense of impending doom”, the experience of dying from COVID-19 is often sheltered and curtained from the family members. The absence of these terrible experiences has “protected and sheltered us from seeing the worst of this disease”, according to Todd Rice, a critical care specialist at Vanderbilt University. These four physicians, who have collectively cared for over 100 dying COVID-19 patients, have shared the intimate and gruesome details of the torture COVID-19 patients endure with Vox.

False claims tying coronavirus vaccines to infertility drive doubts among women of childbearing age

By: Ariana Eunjung Cha

Misinformation regarding the coronavirus vaccine is widespread and has been causing concern. In a conversation with another physician, Niharika Sathe, an internal medicine doctor, heard that the coronavirus vaccine could attack the placenta and possibly cause miscarriage and infertility. After studying information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and other experts, she found that the rumor had no concrete evidence. Currently, the amount of data necessary to universally recommend pregnant women on whether or not to take the vaccine is not enough. The majority of public health organizations recommend pregnant women to speak with their physicians on whether or not they should take the vaccine.

This Is How Dire Weather Illustrated The Importance Of Social Determinants Of Health

By: Sai Balasubramanian, J.D.

Inclement weather events across the country in recent weeks have become another reminder of the various social and economic challenges that impact the health and well-being of millions of Americans. The loss of power, heat, and running water, among other necessities, experienced by many affected communities exemplify the struggles that many Americans living in low-income communities often face on a daily basis. The struggle to restore these resources in impacted areas, which invariably have consequences for health, are indicative of the on-going challenge to do the same in communities familiar with the hurdles of poverty, inaccessibility and discrimination, which often make it difficult to prioritize and maintain acceptable standards of health.