Can Brown Noise Turn Off Your Brain?

The noise sounds like wind, or heavy rain, or the steady hum of an airline jet. It sounds like water rushing somewhere in the distance, like a gentle fan ruffling currents of cool air. It’s soothing, steady, slightly rumbly.

Welcome to the cult of BROWN NOISE, a sometimes hazily-defined category of neutral, dense sound that contains every frequency our ears can detect. Brown noise is like white noise but has a lower, deeper quality. It gained a fervent following over the summer, picking up speed in online A.D.H.D. communities, where people made videos of their reactions to hearing it for the first time. Many said it allowed their brains to feel calm, freed from an internal monologue. Some invited their viewers to try it too, and commenters chimed in, claiming that brown noise was not only a tool to help them focus, but could relieve stress and soothe them to sleep.


Is Natural Wine Actually Better for You?

Natural wine is one of the hottest categories in booze right now, and the health claims are equally intoxicating: Drink natural wine, proponents say, and your headaches and hangovers will be less severe; you won’t feel as dehydrated; your gut health will improve.

“There’s a wide perception that when you’re drinking something cleaner, you’re drinking something healthier,” said Anita Oberholster, a grape and wine industry expert at the University of California, Davis. But, she said, “there’s no clear proof of that.”

So is natural wine actually better for you than its conventional counterparts, or is that just a bit of savvy marketing? We looked at some of natural wine’s most common health claims, and asked experts if they had any science to back them up.

Before assessing the health claims of natural wine, it’s important to agree on what we are talking about. Unlike products with the certified organic label, which must adhere to a clear and regulated set of federal requirements, natural wine is at best the result of a set of well-intentioned, voluntary production principles: Use organically farmed grapes; don’t add anything (like yeast) or modify anything (like acidity levels) during the fermentation process; don’t filter the final product (so as to retain its funky natural flavors and microbes); and add few to no sulfites (chemicals naturally produced during the fermentation process or added to preserve freshness or minimize oxidation).

At worst, natural wine is a marketing buzzword, capitalizing on a hugely popular cultural trend.

“It’s not like the term is regulated, so if a company tells you they’re selling natural wine, it’s impossible to know what they’re actually claiming,” Dr. Oberholster said.

One recurring argument is that conventional wines may be loaded with toxic pesticides, while natural wines — grown using organic viticulture practices — are not.

The evidence: According to Dr. Oberholster, all wine sold in the United States — whether conventional or otherwise — can contain only infinitesimal amounts of pesticide residue. Anything higher than that, regulators say, and it would pose risks to human health. “The levels of pesticide allowed in wine are barely even detectable,” she said. “You wouldn’t be able to pick them up without very advanced instruments. The levels are way below anything that could impact human health.”

Of course, there’s no evidence now that such small exposures to pesticides could affect health. But it’s possible we might later learn that cumulative exposures over time could. “Research evolves,” Dr. Oberholster said, “and what we know to be true now may not always be true.”

There’s a sense among aficionados that natural wine is less harsh or damaging to your overall constitution — “gentle on one’s system,” as Simon Woolf, a journalist and wine expert, said in a 2020 interview with Wine Scholar Guild.

Alice Feiring, a celebrated wine writer in New York City, said, “I don’t want to sound like other fanatics about this, but natural wine really feels better in your body,” though she was careful to note that this was not a scientifically backed claim.

Because natural wine tends to have a lower alcohol by volume (A.B.V.) level than conventional wines, some say, it’s easier to process the next day.

The evidence: Andrew Waterhouse, a professor emeritus and director of the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis, said that natural wine was not going to ease your morning after.

“There is absolutely no proof that your natural wine hangover will be any less severe,” he said. Ms. Feiring agreed, noting she drinks “almost exclusively natural wine, and I have had more than my share of hangovers.”

“There’s no magic trick to avoiding them,” she continued. Ms. Feiring added that while some natural wines do have lower A.B.V.s, this is by no means a rule — and some natural wines have very high alcohol content. “Just go to your local wine shop and look at the labels if you want to clear up that common myth,” she said.

Another prevalent claim is that both added and natural sulfites in conventional wines are harmful to human health. It’s true that in excess, sulfite exposure can cause a range of issues, including mild headaches and dehydration, and severe respiratory distress.

In the 1980s, it was widely reported that high levels of sulfites sprayed on salad bar vegetables to prevent them from wilting or browning was making a lot of people sick.

Conventional wine is legally allowed to contain 350 parts per million of sulfites, while natural wine generally caps sulfite levels at 100 parts per million — but they typically contain much less than that.

The evidence: Amarat Simonne, who also goes by Amy, is a professor of food safety at the University of Florida who has researched the effects of sulfites on human health. She said that unless you’re among the 2 to 3 percent of people who suffer from sulfite intolerance, exposure to the legally permitted sulfite levels in foods and drinks will not negatively affect your health.

“But you never know,” she added. “People’s tolerance to sulfites can fluctuate over time.”

Those with true sulfite intolerances, especially if they have asthma, could potentially face respiratory complications from exposure to the chemicals in conventional wine. More likely, the sulfite-intolerant may find themselves especially dehydrated and headachy after drinking nonnatural wine — symptoms that match a traditional hangover.

But Dr. Waterhouse’s assessment was more blunt: “I’m aware of no data indicating that wine with added sulfites has negative health outcomes for most people.”

Finally, some enthusiasts claim that because natural wine is rich in good bacteria, which aren’t filtered out or minimized during the wine-making process, natural wine can improve gut health.

The evidence: Several limited studies have cautiously indicated that red wine could have digestive benefits, but more research is needed. And none of these studies have differentiated between natural and conventional wines — nor should they, said David Mills, a molecular biologist and distinguished professor in the food science & technology and viticulture & enology departments at the University of California, Davis.

“There wouldn’t be any significant difference in microbial content whether it was so-called natural wine or not,” said Dr. Mills, who was skeptical of significant gut health benefits from drinking any type of wine. “The alcohol is going to kill most beneficial bacteria anyway, so it’s not like wine is ever going to have anywhere near the level of kimchi or yogurt.”

No matter how it’s produced, wine — or any alcoholic beverage, for that matter — can cause significant harm. The handful of studies that have suggested that moderate wine consumption may have some benefits, like improved heart health or lowered cholesterol, have been inconclusive at best. And the health risks — cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and dementia, to name a few — are numerous and well-documented.

Also, Dr. Mills said, there just isn’t a robust body of research on natural wine.

If you enjoy how natural wine tastes, or if you want to support sustainable farming, then go ahead and drink it. But just know that it may not be the superior health choice you may have thought it was.

Study on the lung-function trajectories in COVID-19 patients

Cases with critical coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are often complicated due to the severe lung injury caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. COVID-19 has already claimed more than 6.5 million lives worldwide, but there is limited data on the long-term trajectories of lung function in COVID-19 survivors.

To address this gap, a recent eClinicalMedicine study analyzed the data from a prospective longitudinal cohort follow-up study of COVID-19 survivors over two years after infection.


The lung function rehabilitation after severe COVID-19 has attracted a lot of attention. Prior research has documented a gradual improvement with some abnormalities remaining. Two key limitations of this strand of research are limited sample size and a short follow-up period of around one year. Moreover, data on lung-function trajectories in patients after discharge are not available.

A thorough search of articles, published until July 5, 2022, was conducted on PubMed. Researchers could identify only seven longitudinal studies to assess the changes in lung function, over time, across at least two follow-up visits. However, the effects of lung-function impairment on exercise capacity and quality of life were uncertain. Further, no data were obtained on the long-term determinants and trajectories of lung-function changes.

About the study

In the present study, data from a large, longitudinal, 2-year study were analyzed. The dataset contained in-depth assessment reports of patients who recovered from COVID-19. The data were used to study actual values of forced vital capacity (FVC), diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide (DLco), and total lung capacity (TLC). The participants were categorized into scale 3, scale 4, and scale 5-6 groups per a seven-category ordinal scale.

To conduct a comprehensive assessment of pulmonary function test (PFT), exercise capacity, dynamic changes in dyspnea symptoms, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) were included and compared across the three groups. The exercise capacity was assessed by distance walked in 6 minutes (6MWD). Additionally, the potential factors influencing the recovery of lung function were explored, and trajectories of alterations in lung function in COVID-19 survivors were provided.

Key findings

It was observed that 288 subjects improved PFT between 6 and 12 months of infection. The participants in the scale 5-6 group showed a marked higher increase of PFTs concerning the participants in scale three and scale four groups. Treatment with corticosteroids was identified to be a protective factor for the improvement of PFTs. But, despite the initial promising results, further research needs to be conducted to fully understand the role of corticosteroids in lung-function recovery.

Critical patients were observed to have significantly more dyspnea and reduced exercise capacity at six months. However, no difference was noted at two years. Mild reductions in PFTs did not seem to significantly affect HRQoL and exercise capacity.

The study documented a trend in the Post-COVID lung function change, i.e., a decline in PFTs between the first and second years after COVID-19, consistent with the lung function change of other SARS survivors. However, early lung rehabilitation after hospital discharge (6-12 months) was also emphasized, sometimes as early as during hospitalization.

The reduction in values of total lung capacity (TLC) and DLco were higher in COVID-19 survivors compared to age-related lung function decline in healthy adults. However, the duration of the 2-year follow-up was still short to best study the trajectories of lung function changes in COVID-19 survivors.

Regarding dyspnea, a marked difference was observed across the three groups in the first year after infection. More critical patients showed a greater improvement in 6MWD than others over two years. Higher age and female sex showed a negative relationship with 6MWD, which suggested that the recovery of exercise capacity post-COVID-19 could be driven by demographic characteristics.


The present study showed that the trajectories of post-COVID lung function varied across patients with different degrees of illness severity. A key limitation of the study was the lack of pre-COVID PFTs, which made it difficult to ascertain whether the lung recovered to the pre-COVID status.

Additionally, the follow-up sample size for PFT was small, owing to the loss of some survivors, which could have led to sampling bias. Lastly, the authors highlighted that this was a single-center study that considered hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the early stage of the pandemic. As a result, the representativeness of the cohort could be questioned, owing to the subsequent emergence of new variants of concern. However, the systematic error should be reduced due to the single-center nature of the study design.


Journal reference:

Keep moving: 10,000 steps a day may halve dementia risk

  • Dementia affects more than 55 million people worldwide and is the seventh leading cause of death globally.
  • With the proportion of older people in the population increasing, the number of dementia cases is also on the rise.
  • There is mounting evidence that regular physical exercise not only benefits general health, but is also one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
  • In good news for those who struggle to fit exercise into their daily routine, a new study has shown that walking around 4,000 steps a day may reduce dementia risk by 25%.
  • Upping their daily step count to just under 10,000 could halve a person’s risk of developing dementia.


As the global population ages, cases of dementia are also on the rise worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that some 55 millionTrusted Source people currently have dementia, and the number is set to rise to 139 million by 2050.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that Alzheimer’s disease, the commonest form of dementia, affects around 5.8 millionTrusted Source people in the United States alone.

The greatest risk factors for dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, are aging and genetics. Dementia is most common in those aged over 75, and having a close relative with dementia may increase a person’s riskTrusted Source of developing the disorder.

Other risk factors that we cannot control include sex — females are more at risk than males — and ethnicity. However, lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical exercise, controlling blood pressure, and keeping the brain stimulated, can decrease a person’s risk of dementia, even for those who have one or more risk factors.

Dr. Anton Porsteinsson, professor and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program (AD-CARE) at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told Medical News Today:

“A broad, healthy approach factoring in lifestyle, diet, exercise, cognitive stimulation, socialization, and sleep all make a difference. Many of them [can be effective] even if started later in life.”

And physical exercise need not mean sweating it out at the gym or taking up a new sport.

According to a study recently published in JAMA NeurologyTrusted Source, simply increasing the number of steps a person takes each day can decrease their dementia risk by as much as 50%.

How did the study proceed?

The study used data from the UK Biobank. The 78,430 participants, of whom 44.7% were male and 55.3% female, had a mean age of 61.1 years. All participants were free of cardiovascular disease and dementia when they enrolled in the study. Researchers followed up with participants after a median of 6.9 years (6.4–7.5 years).

For the study, participants had to wear an accelerometer on their dominant wrist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to measure physical activity. The researchers then used an algorithm to work out the step count from the data collected by the accelerometer.

The researchers controlled for variables such as age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, smoking, overall health, and diet when analyzing the data.

At follow-up, 866 participants, or 1.1%, had developed dementia.

While welcoming the study findings, Dr. Claire Sexton, Alzheimer’s Association senior director of scientific programs and outreach, who was not involved in the study, told MNT:

“There are a few important caveats of this study. The population sampled was majority white, and therefore may not be generalizable to other race/ ethnic groups. This study also does not demonstrate definitive causation between step count and dementia risk; therefore, more research is needed.”

“The Alzheimer’s Association is conducting a clinical trial combining exercise with other lifestyle factors, like diet and social/ cognitive engagement, to determine if these factors in combination reduce risk of cognitive decline,” she added.

Dr. Porsteinsson agreed: “There are definite limitations to observational cohort studies but advantages as well. They are hypothesis-generating, that is they point us toward what we may want to study further in a controlled, randomized study. The good news here is that there is a bulk of evidence that suggests that exercise is beneficial in staving off dementia.”


What the study found

“This is an important study that may help inform public health guidelines around the amount of physical activity necessary to reap health benefits,” said Dr. Sexton.

“These results are not surprising given the robust data we have linking physical activity and better cognition. A strength of this paper is it used an objective, widely-understood measure of step count rather than self-reported data,” she noted.

The researchers found that both the number of steps and stepping intensity were associated with reduced dementia risk. For the greatest benefit — a 50% reduction in dementia risk — participants had to walk around 9,800 steps per day. Above this number, no further benefit was seen.

However, the good news for those who cannot achieve this many steps was that just 3,826 steps a day reduced dementia risk by 25%.

Dr. Porsteinsson agreed that any exercise will help reduce risk. “[It’s] never too late to get started and even a relatively small effort is beneficial and can then be added to as endurance improves,” he told us.

Purposeful steps, defined as more than 40 steps per minute, such as when going for a walk, increased the association with reduced dementia risk.

“Here, we see a ‘dose’ effect, that is, more intense and purposeful walking is more beneficial than leisurely walking. Also, people often walk with others (walk and talk) so you can get a social component and an interactive component in as well.”

– Dr. Anton Porsteinsson

Stay active for mental and physical health

This study adds to building evidence that staying active as you age can maintain physical and mental health and improve longevity.

Another large-scale study of almost 650,000 military veterans found that being physically fit reduced dementia risk by up to 33%. In this study, even a small amount of exercise was found to help reduce dementia risk.

An analysis from the Alzheimer’s Society of 11 studies found that, out of taking regular exercise, not smoking, moderating alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy body weight, and eating a healthy diet, it was regular exercise that had the greatest impact on dementia risk.

For Alzheimer’s disease, regular exercise reduced risk by up to 45%.

“The bottom line is we know physical activity supports good cardiovascular health — and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Find something you enjoy doing and stick to it.”

– Dr. Claire Sexton

Should Glycemic Targets for Gestational Diabetes Be Changed?

Use of tighter glycemic targets for women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) reduced the risk for a serious health outcome for the infant, according to a trial conducted in New Zealand. These serious health outcomes included death, birth trauma, and shoulder dystocia. Infants’ length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit also was shorter. But the new targets did not reduce the infant’s risk of being large for its gestational age.