TIME

12 Breakfast Cereals That Are More Than 50% Sugar

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In a year, kids eat more than 10 pounds of sugar by weight from breakfast cereal.

Cereals are taking a hit when it comes to their health claims. First Kashi’s manufacturer Kellogg was forced to remove the words “all natural” and “nothing artificial” from some of its products after a lawsuit in which plaintiffs showed that the company used synthetic, decidedly not-natural ingredients. And comes a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which shows that the cereal aisle in the grocery store might as well become the sugar section.

The researchers analyzed 1556 cereals, and all of the 181 marketed specifically to children contained added sugar. Adult options fare a little better – if you really look, you can find 47 that contain no sugar at all – but most are still sweetened to taste more appealing. And brand names aren’t the worst offenders; some of the sweetest cereals come from store brands.

Here are EWG’s Hall of Shame cereals that contain more than 50% sugar by weight:

National Brands

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks (56% sugar by weight)

Malt-O-Meal Golden Puffs (56%)

Mom’s Best Cereals Honey-Ful Wheat (56%)

Malt-O-Meal Berry Colossal Crunch with Marshmallows (53%)

Post Golden Crisp (52%)

Grace Instant Green Banana Porridge (51%)

Blanchard & Blanchard Granola (51%)

Store Brands

Lieber’s Cocoa Frosted Flakes (88%)

Lieber’s Honey Ringee Os (67%)

Food Lion Sugar Frosted Wheat Puffs (56%)

Krasdale Fruity Circles (53%)

Safeway Kitchens Silly Circles (53%)

For less sugary options, here are the kids’ cereals with the least amount of sugar per serving:

National Brands

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, Gluten-Free (1g)

General Mills Cheerios (1g)

Post 123 Sesame Street, C Is For Cereal (1g)

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (3g)

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies (4g)

Kellogg’s Crispix Cereal (4g)

Store Brands

Springfield Corn Flakes Cereal (2g)

Valu Time Crisp Rice Cereal (3g)

Roundy’s Crispy Rice (4g)

Shop Rite Scrunchy Crispy Rice (4g)

TIME

Single Gene Responsible for Group of Heart Disease Risk Factors

It’s rare, but a genetic mutation may explain the collection of heart-harming factors, including obesity, known as metabolic syndrome

Researchers have been pretty successful at identifying individual genes that can contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. Having any—or a combination of these risk factors—can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

But by studying three families whose members had higher than average rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, researchers zeroed in on a single gene, DYRK1B, that when mutated, can contribute to nearly all of these risk factors, which together are known as metabolic syndrome.

“Historically, there has been debate about the existence of metabolic syndrome. The question is, are the [risk factors] together coincidentally or are they here because the patient has a unifying [problem that explains them all],” says Dr. Ali Keramati, a resident in internal medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. “This study shows that it’s possible for one patient to have all the risk factors that are all explained by one mutation.”

Normally, that gene is responsible for taking stem cells and turning them into fat or muscle, and for directing the liver to produce glucose to balance out insulin levels. In the aberrant form found among members of the three families, it became overactive, pushing the body to produce more fat cells, and driving the liver to pump out more glucose, raising blood sugar levels. The result is likely metabolic syndrome; family members with the mutated gene were more likely to be obese, have diabetes and early heart disease compared to those who did not.

For those who might think that their genes are to blame for their obesity, hypertension or diabetes, Keramati stresses that the mutation is rare, and likely only explains metabolic syndrome in a very small percentage of people. But for people who are affected, the good news is that a drug may help to control the hyperactivity of the gene. “It may be possible to develop a drug that knocks down the function of this gene,” he says.

And for the vast majority who don’t have the DYRK1B mutation, the finding may still lead to other drug treatments by improving doctors’ understanding of how various risk factors form the perfect storm of conditions for heart. In the meantime, the strongest ways to avoid metabolic syndrome are the most familiar – keeping weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.

TIME

See the Bionic “Luke” Arm In Action

The first mind-controlled robotic arm is approved, allowing users to zip up coats, handle eggs and drink from a bottle of water

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It took eight years of research, but the inventor of the Segway finally succeeded in developing the closest thing to a replacement for amputated arms—and it’s a game changer.

Dean Kamen’s bionic version works by picking up on the electric signals near the point of amputation and translating those to the prosthetic, a transparent replica of a human arm and hand, complete with fingers and a thumb. Named Luke after the Star Wars hero who lost his hand in a light-saber duel, the arm gives users the ability to perform multiple functions at one time, an advance over most available prosthetics.

The human brain automatically calibrates the amount of grip needed to pick up objects, and knows to adjust strength in order to handle a coin as opposed to a book. The Luke arm does the same, switching between six different grips as the wearer decides. Being able to control several joints at the same time also increases the user’s range of motion, allowing him to open a lock with a key or chop food to prepare a meal.

The device, developed with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and from Kamen’s DEKA Research and Development, can be fitted for people with amputations at the shoulder, upper arm or lower arm, but not at the elbow or wrist.

TIME prescription drugs

The 5 Most-Prescribed Drugs in America

More Americans take prescription drugs than ever before, and the latest government report breaks down what we’re prescribed and why we’re so reliant on Rxs

In its annual snapshot of America’s health, government health officials this year highlight the growing use of prescription drugs. Between 2007 to 2010, nearly half of U.S. adults and a quarter of children under age 18 used at least one prescription drug in the past month.

About a third of adults take something – cholesterol-lowering drugs or blood pressure medications — to treat heart disease, and 10% rely on prescription-strength pain killers.

While most of these medications are life-saving, or life-enhancing, there are some worrisome trends. Despite a decline, doctors are still prescribing antibiotics to treat cold symptoms, even though these drugs aren’t effective against the viruses responsible for the fevers, sneezes and sniffles. Deaths from overdoses of pain killers more than tripled in the past decade, and uninsured adults were four times less likely to get their prescriptions filled than those with insurance. Here are top five prescribed drugs for adults from 2007-2010, by percentage of users:

Cardiovascular 17.7%

Cholesterol-lowering 10.7%

Antidepressants 10.6%

Analgesics 10.5%

Anti-acid reflux 9%

Source: Health, United States, 2013

TIME psychology

Bullying Is Good For Your Health

A new study in PNAS that investigates the long-lasting physical effects of bullying on both victims and their aggressors finds that bullies show lower levels of inflammation, which is linked to higher risks of chronic diseases like cancer or heart trouble

There’s no denying that being a victim of bullying can leave lasting psychological and social scars. Victims are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and problems in developing healthy social connections for years after the experience. But according to a new study, it gets even worse—the people bullying them may actually experience health benefits from their ruthless behavior.

William Copeland, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center, and other researchers report in the journal PNAS that bullies show lower levels of inflammation, a biological process linked to higher risks of chronic diseases such as heart trouble and cancer, while victims show spikes in the very inflammatory markers that could prime them for serious health problems. The results aren’t an excuse for bullying, says Copeland, but serve as a lesson for how social status can have lasting positive effects on health—as long as it doesn’t come at the price of hurting others.

MORE: When Popularity Backfires: Climbing the Social Ladder Can Lead to Bullying

Copeland and his colleagues took advantage of a database involving 1420 children who were followed from the age of 9 to 21, and who were tested at nine different times during that period. They were asked about their bullying experiences, and researchers took their blood to measure things like C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation that is an important for predictor of heart disease, among other ailments.

Victims of bullying showed the greatest increases in their CRP levels, compared to where they started, which wasn’t surprising, since inflammation can spike due to stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep—all of which bullying victims experience. The more often victims were bullied, the more their CRP levels rose. But the real shocker came when the scientists analyzed the CRP levels of the bullies. Their inflammation rates were lower even than those children who had never reported being bullied or being a bully. Bullying seemed to protect the aggressors from inflammatory diseases. “We found that the enhanced social status that came along with being a bully did seem to advantage them over time,” says Copeland. “That finding more than anything else surprised us.”

MORE: How Bullying’s Effects Reach Beyond Childhood

The fact that there are physical benefits to being the top dog socially—and that these effects are long-lasting—is an important message of the study. And it’s not just bullying—other research has linked higher socioeconomic status to lower levels of inflammation. But what distinguishes Copeland’s work is the long consequence of this effect, which extended from childhood into young adulthood. “It shows the possibility of social interactions for positively affecting a person’s health,” he says. “It’s striking that we can still detect that effect down the road.”

Clearly, there are ways to enhance your social status without threatening to pound your peers. Copeland hopes the study serves as an endorsement of more positive ways of promoting self-esteem and confidence: through athletics, extracurricular activities and other experiences that can help people feel good about themselves—and that don’t come at the expense of others. Bullying shouldn’t be its own reward.

TIME

Paint and Glue Fumes Mess With Your Brain For Decades

In the first long term look at how solvents affect the brain, researchers say some chemicals are linked to cognitive problems 30 years after exposure

We’re exposed to solvents all the time – they’re used in detergents, dry cleaning, paint, glue and furniture polishes – but how are they affecting our health? Most studies focus on relatively short term effects – a few years or so.

So Erika Sabbath, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and her colleagues decided to take the long view. Taking advantage of data from France, they analyzed solvent exposure among retired electric utility workers at the national company, many of whom started working in their 20s. They correlated that information with results from a series of eight memory and thinking tests that the workers took on average 10 years after they retired.

MORE: Is Spring Cleaning a Health Risk?

“What was really surprising was that some people, whose last exposure was 30 year to 50 years before the assessment, were still exhibiting some cognitive difficulties after they had retired,” says Sabbath. “[Other] studies haven’t shown effects that persist this long.”

The team wasn’t able to pinpoint a specific level of danger that distinguished those with more cognitive problems from those with fewer. But they did find a strong pattern linking higher exposure, even decades prior, to worse outcomes on tests of memory, attention and processing speed compared to those with no or less exposure.

MORE: Children Exposed to More Brain-Harming Chemicals Than Ever Before

Even more concerning, says Sabbath is that her analysis found the first hints of deficits in brain functions that previous studies didn’t identify. Retirees with the highest and most recent level of exposure – in the last 12-30 years – had trouble remembering words they had heard verbally, and in retrieving information such as recalling as many animals as they could in a minute. “These people had cognitive problems even in areas that aren’t classically associated with solvents,” she says. “There was a spillover effect into other domains.”

The solvents measured in the study included chlorinated and petroleum solvents as well as benzene, all of which are used in plastics, rubbers, dyes and compounds like degreasers and paints.

Could the same long term effects be found in people who aren’t exposed in the same way that the utility workers were? The exposures in the study were lower than levels that the French and U.S. governments set for harm, but as the findings show, researchers are only just beginning to analyze, and understand how cumulative and long term the potentially dangerous effects of these chemicals may be. Sabbath hopes that the results alert regulatory agencies to the potential long term damage that solvents can have, but realizes that those changes are challenging to make. “The best possible outcome is that permissible exposure levels are reviewed,” she says. “But given the difficulty in changing regulations, especially with the gridlock in Washington, that could be a long term goal.”

In the meantime, how real is the risk for others who may work with solvents but not at the same level as utility workers? Are people who work at dry cleaners facing similar risk of years of brain damage? Or those who work at nail salons? Are painters at risk too? Because the study did not calculate doses of exposure, Sabbath says those questions can’t be answered yet. But there are ways that those concerned about solvents can modify their risk – by protecting themselves with masks and by making sure that they are in well-ventilated areas, as well as switching to products like paints and cleaners that don’t contain volatile organic compounds. “If it were my family member, I would encourage them to protect themselves based on this evidence,” she says.

TIME

Why The Doctor Might Be Wrong About The Good In Red Wine

The compound, which has been linked to longevity, lower risk of heart disease and cancer, may not be such a wonder agent after all

Sometimes, health experts make it easy for us. Drink moderate amounts of red wine! Eat grapes and chocolate! That’s a diet most of us can get behind. But exactly why these things are good for us can get lost in the headlines. Also confusing is the fact that just because a food contains a certain nutrient or antioxidant does not mean that nutrient is present in any therapeutic amount in a single serving of a food. Take resveratrol, a hyped antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes that has been called a fountain of youth. That’s great news for wine lovers, right?

Not so fast. Resveratrol is a polyphenol, part of the good-for-you family of antioxidants that fight cellular aging and tamp down inflammation. Antioxidants have been touted as critical allies in the body’s battle against aging and disease, and replenishing our supply of them with antioxidant-rich foods like wine, chocolate, nuts and berries has become standard nutritional advice. But can you really get these benefits from simply drinking red wine now and again? Researchers studying a group of 768 men and women in the Chianti region of Italy shows that wine as a source of resveratrol may not be such a help when it comes to avoiding heart disease, cancer and early death.

MORE: Popcorn Is Packed with Antioxidants

Because few people in the Chianti region take supplements, the study’s lead author, Dr. Richard Semba of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says the population provided a good way to study exactly what effect average amounts of resveratrol, found in a typical western diet, could have on health. “We expected to find at least something. But in regard to every single outcome, the results were negative,” he says of the findings published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Regardless of how much resveratrol, measured by its breakdown product in the urine, the participants had, their rates of heart disease, cancer, and early death were the same.

MORE: A Drug to Live Longer? Yes! (But Only If You’re a Fat Mouse)

That doesn’t mean resveratrol is a poor antioxidant. Nor does it debunk the role that antioxidants can have in improving health. Previous studies, mostly in animals but some involving people, have linked higher levels of resveratrol to longevity and lower risk of heart disease. And other studies of antioxidants found in carotenoids, for example, also documented an association between average levels of carotenoids consumed in the diet and a lower risk of heart disease and cancer (more may not necessarily be better, however, since studies also showed that supplements and high doses of carotenoids did not significantly lower risk of these diseases).

All of which shows that no single food, or compound, can be expected to solve our health problems. “I don’t think the study casts any negative light on red wine or chocolate,” says Semba. “What it really says is that food is much more complex, and wine is much more complex than trying to attribute health effects to a single thing such as resveratrol.” So enjoy the wine and chocolate, as long as you’re not consuming them solely to meet your resveratrol quota.

 

TIME

The Genes Responsible for Deadly Prostate Cancer Discovered

“These two genes individually don’t do anything, or very little, but only when they are co-active do they produce aggressive forms of the disease,” says the director of Columbia University's Genome Center

Treating prostate cancer has always been trickier than most patients anticipate. Unlike other cancers, most prostate tumors are slow-growing and emerge late in life, so the majority of men affected are more likely to die of other causes than their cancer. For up to 15% of cases, however, the disease can be fast-moving and life-threatening, and because doctors don’t have good ways of separating these aggressive cases from the less dangerous ones, many physicians and patients prefer to err on the side of over-treatment. Recent changes to prostate screening recommendations advising men not to get routine blood tests that can signal the disease have made matters more confusing for men worried about the disease.

That may soon change, thanks to a test that can pick out the slow-growing cancers from the faster-growing ones. Researchers at Columbia University report in the journal Cancer Cell that they have identified two genes that are likely driving the most aggressive cases of prostate cancer. Other scientists had linked the genes, FOXM1 and CENPF, to cancer, but none had connected them to prostate growths. And more importantly, none had figured out that the two genes’ cancer-causing effects only occurred if they are turned on at the same time.

MORE: Genetic Test Can Predict Most Aggressive Cases of Prostate Cancer

Co-senior investigators Cory Abate-Shen of Columbia University Medical Center and Andrea Califano, director of Columbia’s Genome Center, found that both genes had to be active in order for the prostate cancers to progress. Having over-expression of either gene wasn’t sufficient to drive the prostate cancer to spread or grow more quickly. “These two genes individually don’t do anything, or very little, but only when they are co-active do they produce aggressive forms of the disease,” says Califano. It’s not clear yet what makes the genes more active, but there are ways to control their expression and avoid the cancer-causing pathway, he says.

The genes, which are identified from a biopsy of prostate tumor tissue, could help doctors and patients triage the more dangerous forms of prostate cancer from the indolent ones. That means that men with suspicious growths could get a biopsy before deciding on treatments, much in the way that many women diagnosed with breast cancer do. If both genes are turned on and highly active, then they would be advised to get immediate treatment such as surgery, radiation or tumor-targeting drugs, or some combination of these. If neither gene, or only one is active, then doctors might recommend less intensive therapy while they monitored the tumors. Having the biological back-up that suggests that the inactive genes are less likely to cause aggressive cancer could help many patients feel more comfortable with such a watchful waiting approach.

A test to distinguish prostate cancers is already in the works; in 2013, Califano, Abate-Shen and their colleagues identified three genes that were associated with slower-growing tumors that likely did not need immediate treatment. They are in discussions with companies to develop a commercial test to put those genes together with the two newly isolated one associated with aggressive growth that could guide more targeted, and cost-effective, treatment of prostate cancer.

TIME

Exercise Snacking: How to Make 1 Minute of Exercise Work Like 30 Minutes

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Zia Soleil—Getty Images

Less is more when it comes to keeping blood sugar in check with exercise, but it’s all about when you schedule those workouts

Think of exercise the same way you think of food, and break it up into snack-sized sessions rather than marathon ones. That’s the message of the latest study published in the journal Diabetologia, which showed that parsing physical activity into short bouts of intense exercise is better than working out once a day. If snacking throughout the day is one way to keep your weight in check (as long as you don’t go overboard and stick to healthy ones), why not exercise snack too?

The trial was small but provides some encouraging ways to make exercise more efficient. And who doesn’t want to learn how to stay trim by trimming the time spent at the gym?

MORE: Even Brief Exercise Can Improve Memory In Older Adults

All of the participants were just beginning to show signs of insulin resistance, one of the first steps toward diabetes, in which the body’s insulin starts to lose the battle in breaking down sugar from the diet. On three different days, each was asked to exercise in three different ways before eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, and their blood sugar was measured after each meal on the day they exercised and the following day. Spikes in blood sugar are normal after meals, but sustained peaks mean the body isn’t dispatching the sugar as quickly as it should; the result could be obesity and diabetes.

Exercise snacking before eating — or exercising for just one minute at an intense enough level to push their hearts to 90% of their maximum beating rates — dropped blood sugar among the men and women after breakfast and dinner by more than a single session of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (in which the heart reached 60% of its maximum beating rate). Even more encouraging, their blood sugar remained lower for at least 24 hours.

MORE: Extreme Workouts: When Exercise Does More Harm than Good

The idea of breaking up exercise makes sense; recent studies showed, for example, that even people who meet the recommended daily 30 minutes of moderate physical activity still spend most of the remaining minutes of the day relatively inactive. And intense activity, especially before meals, may be key to kicking the body’s fat- and sugar-burning mechanisms into functioning at their best.

The research does leave some questions unanswered, including how cumulative the effect of the short sessions are, whether the same effect holds for people who aren’t yet insulin resistant, and why the exercise snacks didn’t work as well before lunch. But the possibility that packaging exercise into smaller, and better timed sessions is certainly appealing, and will be the subject or more studies to come. Here’s hoping that intense, one minute exercise sessions are the wave of the future.

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