TIME Diet/Nutrition

Eating Insects Isn’t as Eco-Friendly As People Say

Insects: Our Food Of The Future?
Sean Gallup—Getty Images Dried grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets seasoned with spices

Crickets aren't so green after all

Crickets are often trumpeted as the future of food, an edible, eco-friendly solution to a some-day protein shortage that livestock just can’t fix. Even the United Nations promotes insect-eating as a promising, protein-packed way to feed the 9 billion people that will live on earth in 2050. “A benefit of insects as an alternative animal protein source is that they can be reared sustainably on organic side streams (e.g. manure, pig slurry and compost),” their report reads.

Because insects emit far fewer greenhouse gases than livestock and consume way less water, they have a comparatively tiny ecological footprint, and they’re thought to thrive on basically anything, even organic waste. That last point sums up the main ecological appeal of eating insects; growing the grain used in animal feed takes up huge water and energy resources.

But do crickets really have the potential to be the new beef? Not yet, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. When researchers raised crickets on several different diets and tried to see how much protein they could squeeze out of them, they got some disappointing results: just not a whole lot of protein.

MORE: Why, On Second Thought, Maybe You Shouldn’t Start Eating Bugs

In the experiment, researchers raised crickets on one of five different diets. They replicated each diet three time and harvested the crickets after two weeks. One group ate corn-, soy- and grain-based feed, while others survived on food waste or crop residue. The researchers measured how big the crickets grew and how much edible protein they produced.

Diet made a huge difference, the study authors found. Those that ate a diet of processed food waste had a feed and protein conversion rates no more efficient than that of chickens. Nearly all those fed straight food waste died before they could be harvested. And the most successful crickets were those that ate a grain-based diet similar to what most poultry eat. They had a 35% protein conversion rate, which is only slightly better than chickens.

So even if the whole world took a page out of Mexico’s cookbook and developed an appetite for chapulines—crunchy fried crickets—the small protein payoffs may not even be worth it if we’re feeding them what chickens eat, the authors suggest.

“I think the sustainability claims on this topic have been overstated given the current state of knowledge,” wrote study author Dr. Mark Lundy of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources in an e-mail.

Even if they can’t survive on as many organic sidestreams as we originally thought, Lundy doesn’t think that insects are out of the running as the future of food.

“I’m all for exploring alternatives, and I am impressed by the amount of innovation that has sprung up around insect cultivation and cuisine in the last few years,” he says. “However, I also think we need to be clear-eyed about what the sustainability gains are and aren’t, and focus our innovative efforts and limited resources to where they will have the most lasting impact.”

Swapping chickens for crickets–while feeding them the same thing—is unlikely to make a real difference. “Insect cultivation is more likely to contribute to human nutrition at a scale of economic and ecological significance if it does not rely on a diet that competes with conventional livestock,” he says, “but more innovation is needed for this to become a reality.”

TIME Cancer

Breast Cancer May Increase 50% By 2030

By 2030, the number of breast cancer cases in the United States will grow by 50% compared their 2011 rates, according to new research from the National Cancer Institute.

In the new study, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting, researchers used cancer surveillance data, census data and mathematical models to arrive at projections. Part of the reason the numbers are so high, they note, is because women are living longer. Another factor is the increase in screening that enables doctors to spot and diagnose more cases of in-situ tumors—very early stage growths that may not require treatment—as well as more invasive tumors.

MORE: This Mammogram Saves Lives and Money

The data comes amid concerns about the over-treatment of breast cancer. Last year, an analysis of women with stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found little difference in survival rates 20 years after diagnosis between women who had an unaffected breast removed and those who did not.

“There’s certainly concern, especially in the older patients, about over-diagnosis of breast cancer, and that’s one of the reasons that screening mammography can become very controversial in older patients,” says Dr. Sharon Giordano, MPH, department chair of health services research at MD Anderson Cancer Center. (Giordano was not involved in the research.) “We don’t want to end up diagnosing and treating a disease that would never cause a problem during the person’s natural lifetime.”

Not all in-situ breast cancer progresses into a dangerous condition, Giordano explains. “One of the unanswered questions is, how do we identify the in-situ cancers that are the ones that go on and progress to a life-threatening illness, and which are the ones that we should be leaving alone and not subjecting people to invasive surgery and radiation for treatment?”

The researchers also teased out some more hopeful projections: that the number of estrogen-receptor negative (ER-negative) cancers, the kind that don’t need estrogen to grow and don’t typically respond to endocrine therapy, will drop from 17% in 2011 to 9% in 2030. That may be good news, since ER-positive breast cancers tend to grow slower and have better long-term survival rates. The reasons for the expected drop aren’t clear yet, the study authors say, but one contributing factor could be that women are having children later in life, and having a child young is a risk factor for ER-negative tumors.

“In sum, our results suggest that although breast cancer overall is going to increase, different subtypes of breast cancer are moving in different directions and on different trajectories,” said study author Philip S. Rosenberg, PhD, a senior investigator in cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, in a statement. “These distinct patterns within the overall breast cancer picture highlight key research opportunities that could inform smarter screening and kinder, gentler, and more effective treatment.”

TIME Research

Tylenol Dulls Your Emotional Pain, Too

Tylenol Pills Spilling Out Of Bottle
Shelley Dennis—Getty Images

Acetaminophen might be having a bigger effect on the brain than we realize

Popping Tylenol to soothe an ache is second nature to many of us. But what do you take for heartache? A new pair of studies suggests that the painkiller might blunt responses to emotional pain, too.

In one study, researchers from the Ohio State University Medical Center gave 80 people either a placebo or 1,000 mg of acetaminophen —the active ingredient in Tylenol and the equivalent of two extra-strength Tylenol. After waiting an hour for it to kick in, the researchers showed them a series of emotional images on a computer screen and had them rate how much emotion they felt from each picture: from happy images like cute, cuddly kittens to negative images like gory car accidents and snakes, to neutral images like a filing cabinet. Study author Baldwin M. Way, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychology and Institute for Behavioral medicine Research at the Ohio State University, says he was surprised by what he saw. “It turned out Tylenol blunted that or reduced that by about 20% compared to people who were on placebo rating the same images,” Way says.

The next step was to figure out if the drug was blunting responses to absolutely everything—or just emotional responses. They repeated the experiment testing reactions to color saturation. When they found no difference in how the two groups observed the intensity of color, they concluded that the drug was only interfering with emotionally charged information.

This isn’t the first study to show that the drug might be tinkering with our emotions. Previous research has shown that when people take acetaminophen for three weeks, their feelings get hurt less when they are socially rejected. That could be because pain is pain; whether it comes from a bump or a break-up, pain seems to travel through the same neurochemical pathways. In another study published in 2013, people who took acetaminophen thought about their own death less negatively than those who weren’t on anything. And a study this year found that when faced with a tough choice, acetaminophen helps dull the discomfort.

But how?

Acetaminophen works on several different levels in the body in ways scientists aren’t entirely sure about yet. But Way suspects it involved the insula, an area of the brain that responds to both positive and negative emotions and creates emotional significance. “When you have a pain response—when you put your hand on a hot stove for example—your brain needs to know which body part is getting hurt or wounded so you can react,” Way says. “But there’s also another part of your brain that needs to know the emotional response: the ‘ouch.’” That’s where the insula comes in, Way suspects. “It seems to register that this is painful, that this hurts and that this has an emotional element to it. What we think is going on is that the emotional component of pain—the ‘ouch’—is being blunted by acetaminophen.” Another way Tylenol may dull emotional pain is that it could be acting along the same anti-inflammatory pathway to the brain, he suspects.

Some brain scan studies show that acetaminophen reduces activity in that area of the brain, and other studies show that people with insula damage don’t respond to positive and negative stimuli. Way says he plans to repeat the experiment in an MRI scanner to see if acetaminophen reduces insula activity.

“What this all means and how it affects people in daily life is an unknown question, of course,” he says. Way and his colleagues are currently running a trial with psychiatric patients to see if acetaminophen may have a therapeutic benefit.

More research is needed. But Way thinks that all kinds of drugs besides acetaminophen may be having effects on our emotions. “When a drug goes through clinical trials, they test it for its safety on things like, ‘Does your liver work?’ or ‘Is it causing your blood vessels to explode?’” he says. “But what’s never assessed in those studies is behavior and psychological processes…so one has to wonder, are these drugs that people are taking for a variety of different reasons having brain effects? There might be more widespread psychological and behavioral effects than we currently appreciate.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Drink Fat-Free Half and Half?

5/5 experts say no.

“Hell no!” says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, followed by: “What is it?” Those were sentiments echoed by all of our experts in this week’s burning food question.

Lest you, too, are left scratching your head, here’s the lowdown. Half-and-half math is simple: whole milk plus cream. The fat-free version requires some more advanced calculations, however. “It typically replaces the milk fat with corn syrup and thickeners,” says Julia Zumpano, an RD at Cleveland Clinic’s Heart and Vascular Institute. (Kristi King, senior clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital, agrees that the real thing is better than additives.) The ingredient list on a typical brand of fat-free half and half contains fat-free milk, corn syrup, carrageenan, cream, artificial color, disodium phosphate, guar gum and vitamin A palmitate. It has half the calories (20) as regular half-and-half and about twice the sodium (20-30 mg), plus sugar (1-2 grams).

“Fat-free half-and-half strikes me as an absolutely unnecessary product,” says Mario Kratz, PhD, a dairy researcher and nutrition scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. It exists, of course, because people want the rich texture and flavor and calcium benefits without the fat or calories. But that dairy phobia is misguided, according to Kratz’s recent review on dairy. “Our work shows that consuming dairy foods in their full-fat form (rather than nonfat or low-fat) is associated with lower weight gain, a lower risk of obesity, and possibly even lower risks for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” he says.

MORE Why Full-Fat Dairy May Be Healthier Than Low-Fat

These findings are largely drawn from observational studies, so they can’t establish cause in the way that a randomized controlled trial can, Kratz cautions. Nor do the findings imply that chugging a carton of regular half-and-half is a good idea—just that drinking the fat-free version might be a worse one.

“I didn’t know there was such a thing as fat-free half-and-half. Sounds awful,” says Andrew Weil, MD, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Weil steers people away from nonfat dairy products (though he cops to dipping into fat-free sour cream every once in a while) because taking the fat out of dairy, he says, might have hormonal effects. “Milk contains natural sex hormones,” he says. “The centrifugation process for preparing nonfat milk and products made from it causes differential concentration of male and female hormones in the separated watery and fatty components.” Some studies link skim milk to increased risk of type-1 diabetes, male acne and infertility in women, he says.

Without the fat, half and half is a lot like the skim milk that makes it up—it just isn’t quite whole.

fat-free half and half
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Read next: Should I Eat Falafel?

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TIME Research

Can Specks of Dust Help Solve Crimes?

dust microbes dna
Getty Images

Call them the dust busters: Scientists are now able to take a sample of dust, sequence the DNA of its fungi and microbes and figure out where it came from, according to new research published in the journal PLOS ONE. The application might prove useful in solving crimes.

The researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, had about 1,000 people across the country swab their homes’ outer door frames and send in samples of the dust. A lab sequenced all that dust DNA—fungi, microbes and all—from every state but North Dakota. (The scientists have nothing against North Dakota. It’s just that no one from the state sent in a sample.) Our nation’s door frames are home to a mind-boggling amount of diversity; researchers identified 40,000 unique fungal taxa from the samples. A single home, by comparison, usually only harbors about 700 fungal taxa.

MORE: Your Tiny Roommates: Meet the Microbes Living In Your Home

Their goal was to glean where each fungal species tended to show up, which could be useful information in forensic investigations with this type of evidence. “We wanted to take either the presence or absence of these different species and get a smooth picture of where we expect the fungus to live,” explains Neal Grantham, one of the study’s authors and a PhD student in the department of statistics at North Carolina State University. By estimating the probability of seeing these different species at some location in the U.S., they were able to put a pin in a map of the most likely location of origin, he says. Half of their predictions got closer than 143 miles of the actual place of origin, and about five percent were within 35 miles of the dust’s doorframe.

Down the line, mapping out the microbes of dust could help with forensics and law enforcement investigations, Grantham says. “This is not the first study that shows you can use bacteria and fungi in a forensics setting. But what our work contributes is a more objective statistical way to tackle these problems,” he says.

The scientists are looking into whether the probability method might hold for other samples, like pollen. If it does, law enforcement could use a statistically sound probability instead of relying on pollen experts to divine where a sample might have originated, Grantham says.

“‘Humans are ecosystems’ is the big microbiome message,” Grantham says. Now, our doorframes might be ecosystems, too.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

What 5 Days of Junk Food Does to Your Metabolism

There's far more than weight gain to worry about

It takes surprisingly few days of a mac-and-cheese-rich diet to do some really bad things to your metabolism. Just five days on a diet full of processed food was enough to alter a body’s healthy response to food, finds a small new study published in the journal Obesity.

Researchers wanted to look at how skeletal muscles adapt when we pound our bodies with fatty processed foods, so they took 12 healthy college-aged men and put them on an eating regimen designed by the researchers, including an initial control diet. Those on the fatty diet ate 55% of their calories came from fat—and about 18% of their total calories came from saturated fat. That’s a lot more saturated fat than most Americans eat, no matter how bad their diet. The control diet was about 30% fat.

“When we were toying around with what diet we were going to use, we looked at things like gift certificates for McDonald’s,” says Matthew W. Hulver, PhD, department head of Human Nutrition, Food and Exercise at Virginia Tech. “But a McDonald’s diet isn’t even saturated enough compared to what we fed the people in our study.”

They settled on a Westernized diet topped with butter, featuring foods like macaroni and cheese, ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise and butter, and fatty microwavable meals. The researchers took muscle biopsies from the men before and after the high-fat feeding. The researchers formulated the fatty diets to be identical in calories to the control.

When researchers looked at specific gene targets, the effects on metabolism were dramatic. “The normal response to a meal was essentially either blunted or just not there after five days of high-fat feeding,” Hulver says. Before going on a work-week’s worth of a fatty diet, when the men ate a normal meal they saw big increases in oxidative targets four hours after eating. That response was obliterated after the five-day fat infusion. And under normal eating conditions, the biopsied muscle used glucose as an energy source by oxidizing glucose. “That was essentially wiped out after,” he says. “We were surprised how robust the effects were just with five days.”

While their overall insulin sensitivity didn’t change in the short time frame, the findings suggest that longer exposure to a diet of this kind might lead to insulin resistance down the line.

If five days of fat is enough to mess with metabolism, the chronic effects raise interesting questions, Hulver says. “Our question is: does this prime the body? When you go into a period where you are overconsuming calories, would individuals who have a chronic high fat diet be predisposed to weight gain?”

Hulver says he doesn’t know the answer yet, but his lab’s future studies hope to find out.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s Your New Science-Backed Reason to Eat More Cheese

Your good bacteria love stinky fromage as much as you do

Americans have long been bewildered by the French paradox: that despite consuming a dream diet full of cheese, baguettes and red wine, people in France have generally low rates of coronary heart disease. By some estimates, the average French person eats 57 pounds of cheese each year—more than in any other country—while the average American eats a measly 34.

Scientists have yet to solve the puzzle. Some point to the resveratrol in red wine as one possibility; a more likely reason, say a growing number of experts, is that we were wrong—or at least partially wrong—to condemn saturated fat as a primary cause of heart disease. A small new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests yet another delicious possibility: cheese.

More research is needed, but in this paper—funded in part by Arla Foods (a Danish food company that produces dairy products) and the Danish Dairy Research Foundation—Danish scientists analyzed data from 15 healthy young men who ate three diets for two weeks. All of the diets had the same amount of calories and fat, but one was rich in 1.5% fat milk, another required eating 1.7 grams of cow cheese per day, and there was a third control diet. The researchers analyzed the men’s urine and feces to figure out how dairy is metabolized and what effect it had on markers of blood cholesterol levels.

When people gorged on dairy products—but especially cheese—their microflora seemed to change. In their feces, researchers saw some metabolites that they know are related to the metabolism of the microflora: short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate both appeared at increased concentrations compared to the control diet. They also had lower levels than the control group of TMAO, a metabolite produced when the body metabolizes choline, which is found in many animal-derived foods, especially red meat. (Lower levels seem to be a good thing; other research has shown that TMAO may help transport cholesterol to the arteries and predicts mortality rates.)

The findings suggest that cheese and milk might help modify the gut bacteria to decrease production of TMAO, the authors write. “I was surprised,” says study co-author Morten Rahr Clausen, a postdoc in the department of food science at Aarhus University in Denmark. “I didn’t expect to find anything in the cheese that would change the microflora.”

MORE Should I Eat Cheese?

The researchers can’t be sure whether the increase in gut-friendly compounds came directly from the cheese or if they were formed by the microbiota, Clausen adds—but they could still have a beneficial effect either way. “I’m not completely sure why, but it seems like the cheese and also milk, but mainly cheese, affects the microbiota after eating cheese and that might affect the composition of the lipids in the blood,” he says.

The study adds a new dimension to our understanding how fermented milk products interact with the body. “The previous mechanism was that calcium binds the fatty acids and they’re just flushed through the gut,” he says. “Our study suggests another mechanism that the cheese might work through.

More research and studies on bigger, more diverse populations are needed before we definitively solve the French paradox, but these results are promising. “We didn’t know beforehand what to look for,” Clausen says. “Sometimes you find something that you didn’t expect.”

Read next: People Who Love Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Have Way More Sex Than Those Who Don’t

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Can Probiotics Improve Your Mood?

There's a big difference between thinking you're taking a probiotic—and actually taking one

Bacteria appears to do a body a lot of good, from bolstering immunity to easing digestion. Recent evidence also points to certain bacteria as influencing mood, by producing compounds that travel from the intestine to the brain. (There’s even the name for this feel-good superhighway: the gut-brain axis.) Now, a new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity suggests that taking a probiotic supplement may in fact help improve mood.

Researchers from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University in the Netherlands conducted a randomized controlled trial of 40 healthy young adults who didn’t have mood disorders. Half took a powdered probiotic supplement, which they dissolved in water or milk and drank nightly for four weeks. The probiotic, called Ecologic Barrier and supplied for free by its manufacturer Winclove BV, contained eight different types of bacteria, including several strains of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Lactococcus—types of bacteria that some research suggests are effective at easing anxious and depressive symptoms. (Some studies show that multispecies probiotics like these might be more effective than those with just one species.) The people who didn’t get a probiotic took a powdered placebo; everyone thought they were getting the probiotic.

(Winclove BV was not involved in the study design, data collection or data analysis.)

MORE: You Asked: Should I Take Probiotics?

Before the four weeks started and after they were up, researchers tested everyone on a depression sensitivity scale, which measured levels of cognitive reactivity to sad mood—a strong marker of depression, meaning that when a person gets sad, they’re more vulnerable to dysfunctional thoughts that can lead to a lingering depressive episode.

There was no difference between the two groups before the intervention began. But after four weeks, people who took the probiotic reported significantly less reactivity to sad mood than the control group—meaning that when they were put in a sad mood, they had fewer recurrent distressing or aggressive thoughts.

The current study wasn’t able to determine possible mechanisms by which probiotics could improve mood. But the authors have some ideas, including the possibility that beneficial bacteria help tamp down inflammation and permeability of the gut, or that intestinal bacteria increase levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that’s required to make serotonin in the brain.

Probiotic research in humans is limited, and bigger, longer studies are needed before being able to determine if probiotics might have any clinically relevant effects on mood. The researchers also didn’t measure what the people in the study ate, which may skew the results if they started eating lots of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchi.

“Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood,”says Lorenza S. Colzato, principal investigator at the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition in a statement. “As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Group Wants to Ban the Word Diet From Diet Sodas

Diet soda
Getty Images

A consumer-advocacy group is calling today for federal regulatory agencies to investigate the use of the word diet by diet-soda manufacturers, calling the adjective “deceptive, false and misleading” and citing research that finds diet soda may actually lead to weight gain instead of weight loss.

“This looks like a classic case of false advertising,” says Gary Ruskin, co-founder and executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, Calif., which wrote two letters — one to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and another to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — demanding a sweeping investigation into the use of the word diet in advertising by companies that use artificial sweeteners. U.S. Right to Know claims that the use of the word violates federal law against false advertising, branding and labeling of food products. “We’re doing this to make sure that people don’t get sicker from these products and gain weight when they want to be losing weight,” Ruskin says.

MORE: Should I Drink Diet Soda?

Some research suggests that diet soda may contribute to weight gain instead of weight loss, possibly by decoupling the link between sweet taste and caloric consequences, thus leading to overeating.

“Previous research, including human clinical trials, supports that diet beverages are an effective tool as part of an overall weight management plan,” said the American Beverage Association, the trade association representing the beverage industry, in a statement provided to TIME. “Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of diet beverages — as well as low-calorie sweeteners, which are in thousands of foods and beverages — in helping to reduce calorie intake. Furthermore, low- and no-calorie sweeteners have repeatedly been deemed safe by decades of scientific research as well as regulatory agencies around the globe — including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Falafel?

5/5 experts say yes.

Falafel
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Prepare the pita: falafel’s a health food, say all five of our experts.

That’s great news for lovers of the little gold balls, made from soaked chickpeas, parsley, garlic and spices. Rich in plant protein with about 2 grams per ball, falafel stands in handily for red meat. “I certainly eat falafel,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Imagine falafel with a Middle Eastern salad replacing meatballs and spaghetti made with white flour.”

But the benefits go far beyond plant-based protein. A 3.6-ounce portion of chickpeas—what’s in three falafel balls, roughly—gives you about 26% of the daily recommended fiber. “As a result, falafel can improve bowel function and decrease the absorbance of both cholesterol and simple sugars,” says Peter Zahradka, PhD, principal investigator in molecular physiology at the Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnepeg.

It’s worth meditating a minute on the benefits of fiber, since most of us don’t come close to the recommended 25 grams a day. Doing so would do us good, says Phil Chilibeck, PhD, professor at the University of Saskatchewan. “High-fiber foods will help to lower blood lipid levels”—i.e. cholesterol—“reducing your risk of heart disease and also lowering your risk of colon cancer,” he says. A study earlier this year found that people who simply added more fiber-rich foods lost the same amount of weight and showed similar drops in cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation as people who were assigned a low-fat diet.

Foods like chickpeas help fill that fiber gap. “Our own research has shown that legumes like chickpeas can actually improve the function of our blood vessels,” Zahradka says. “This makes falafel potentially a very good way of reducing the risk of heart disease, especially if the fat content is kept low through baking.”

Must we really ditch frying the balls? Yes, say both Chilibeck and Zahradka. “Personally, I like falafel a lot,” says Zahradka, “but would not recommend eating it regularly if fried, since it adds too much fat to the diet.” Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian and manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic, concurs.

But Willett has another take. “Deep-frying is not necessarily bad if the oil is non-hydrogenated unsaturated oil from plant sources, and if care is taken to not overheat the oil,” he says. “Until recently, most commercial deep frying used beef fat or oils high in trans fat. This was unhealthy, but most deep frying now is done with trans-fat-free oils that are largely unsaturated, and these can actually reduce your blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease.”

So should you eat falafel? “Hell ya!” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, in a short but spirited response. “Chickpeas, spices, olive oil. Love it!”

Read next: Should I Eat Tofu?

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