December 30, 2023

Understanding science

Research Worth Sharing, December 2023 Edition

MDMA for PTSD, the HALL aging database, peanut immunotherapy, blood pressure cuff sizes and accuracy, and the effects of swearing on strength

Peter Attia

Read Time 4 minutes

In any given week, month, or year, we encounter far more new and noteworthy publications on health and longevity topics than we could possibly discuss in depth on The Drive or our weekly newsletters. Inevitably, we occasionally must pass on covering research that would nevertheless be valuable and interesting to our audience. In an effort to fill this gap, we’d like to highlight a handful of these studies every few months in “Research Worth Sharing” roundups, and what better time to kick it off than the cusp of a new year?

So without further ado, here’s some of the research we’ve been reading lately:


A Phase 3 Trial of MDMA for Treatment of Moderate/Severe PTSD

Why we are interested: PTSD is notoriously difficult to treat using traditional medications, with a remission rate of only 20-30% for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). MDMA, a stimulant drug sometimes used recreationally, prevents the reuptake of/promotes the release of monoamines, representing a new angle of treatment that may benefit people not responding to SSRI treatment.

What the study showed: After previous studies established MDMA treatment as tolerable with a good safety profile, the investigators of the present study evaluated MDMA efficacy in individuals with moderate to severe PTSD relative to placebo plus therapy. They found that MDMA treatment resulted in a 23.7-point reduction of CAPS-5 (Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5) scores, compared to a 14.8-point reduction with placebo plus therapy. Though every study has its pitfalls, it’s always worth keeping an eye out for new approaches to mental illnesses, which are so often resistant to current therapies.

doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-01336-3

A Public Database on Aging: Human Aging and Longevity Landscape (HALL)

Why we are interested: As Dr. Rich Miller recently explained on the podcast, research on purported life-extending interventions can often be misleading when we look at particular readouts, variables, cell types, or study populations in isolation. By taking a broader look at all available data, we can make more informed conclusions – and hypotheses – about the biology of aging and the potential efficacy of anti-aging interventions, but until now, we have lacked a resource where such comprehensive data are aggregated and made accessible.

What the study adds: This article announces the development of the new HALL database, in which multi-dimensional datasets on human longevity and aging have been compiled, organized, and made available to the public. The database includes eight categories of “-omics” data (phenomics, genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, metagenomics, and pharmacogenomics) derived from diverse human cohorts. While HALL is primarily intended as a resource for researchers, it also includes tools for the lay public and research participants. The database, which will continue to be developed and updated, is available at

doi: 10.1093/nar/gkad880

A Phase 3 Trial of Oral Peanut Immunotherapy in 1-4 Year Old Children

Why we are interested: Recently, on Episode #277 of The Drive, Dr. Kari Nadeau discussed the efficacy of immunotherapy for severe food allergies. Among food-related allergens, peanuts are the most common cause of anaphylaxis and death. Young children are at significant risk because they cannot monitor their own foods for allergens, increasing the necessity for effective treatment and prevention.

What the study showed: Previously approved for children over the age of 4, peanut allergen powder-dfnp (PTAH) oral immunotherapy was assessed in children between the ages of 1 and 4. The study found that after one year of PTAH treatment, 73.5% of participants tolerated a 600-mg or higher dose of peanut protein, compared to only 6.3% in the non-immunotherapy group, demonstrating the safety and efficacy of physician-supervised immunotherapy for peanut allergies in young children.

doi: 10.1056/EVIDoa2300145

The Size of a Blood Pressure Cuff Significantly Impacts the Accuracy of its Readings

Why we are interested: Elevated blood pressure is one of the three primary risk factors for atherosclerosis and the one that drives the greatest number of annual deaths. We recently covered all things blood pressure in AMA #48 of The Drive, in which we noted the importance of using an appropriately sized blood pressure cuff to ensure accurate blood pressure measurements. The present article underscores that point by assessing the degree of inaccuracy caused by using the wrong cuff size.

What the study showed: Individuals with a wide range of arm circumferences were tested in a randomized, crossover design to compare blood pressure readings using too-small, too-large, or appropriately sized blood pressure cuffs. The authors found that for individuals with smaller arm circumferences, using a too-large (“regular”) cuff consistently underestimated systolic blood pressure (-3.6 mmHg), while for individuals with larger arm circumferences, using a too-small “regular” cuff consistently overestimated systolic blood pressure (+4.8 mmHg for “large” arms and +19.5 mmHg for “extra large” arms). These results provide further motivation for learning to measure blood pressure at home to ensure more accurate measurements than are likely to be obtained with the one-size-fits-all approach employed in many doctors’ offices.

doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2023.3264

Swearing May Make You (Indirectly) Stronger

Why we are interested: Once in a while, we stumble across papers that remind us of the fun and light side of science. This is one of those cases: an article entirely focused on the benefits of swearing. And beyond the fun of reading this article, it suggests that a well-placed profanity may provide more biological benefit than the sense of satisfaction that often follows a verbal outburst.

What the study showed: Previously, swearing has been shown to increase pain tolerance, effectively extending the length of time you can immerse a hand in cold water (and benefiting other measures of pain tolerance). The present study extended this into the realm of strength, demonstrating specifically that swearing increases grip strength by 2.49 kg and push-up hold time by 2.67 seconds compared to the non-swearing condition. They also found that humor, more so than risk-taking behavior, mediated this effect, suggesting that disinhibition may underlie the swearing-related strength improvement. Well, damn.

doi: 10.1177/17470218221082657


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