TIME Exercise/Fitness

Here’s Your New Reason to Demand a Treadmill Desk

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The health benefits of anything-but-sitting

Active workstations do more than just burn on-the-clock calories, finds a new study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Standing desks and treadmill desks might make you healthier while also improving mood and not interfering with work.

Study co-author Michael Sliter, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University-Indianapolis, wondered if active workstations were good for anything but caloric expenditure on company time. “That would be of limited value if people actually performed worse, were stressed out when they were doing it, or got bored of it,” he says. So the study assigned 180 people to one of four workstations: a seated desk, standing desk, treadmill desk or cycling desk. After a bit of practice, they did 35 minutes worth of tasks. Researchers measured their performance and how much they liked their workstation in reported levels of boredom, stress, satisfaction and how engaged they were in the task.

MORE: This Hamster Wheel Treadmill Desk Is the Ideal Way to Make Your Coworkers Hate You

“We were able to show that these active workstations have psychological benefits without performance detriment,” says Sliter—for the most part, that is. People at treadmill desks were less bored, less stressed and more satisfied than those at seated, standing or cycling desks. In terms of how well people were able to do their job, everyone performed equally except for the desk cyclists. Turns out, Sisyphean pedaling while whizzing through Excel spreadsheets doesn’t do your work performance or mental health any favors: desk cyclists generally performed worse and were less satisfied, though Sliter says they were probably too uncomfortable to be bored.

“It was kind of funny watching people, because you could actually see their arms moving up and down while they were pedaling,” says Sliter, who walks on his treadmill desk about three hours a day. “We found that you can’t really work very well when you’re also pedaling.”

Being active at work is one way to combat the dreaded sitting-desk syndrome: loads of research shows that seated desks are a ticking time bomb for your health. This new study shows that standing up to sitting at work has more than just physical benefits—it might help your mind, too.

MORE: VIDEO: Walking While Working

TIME HIV/AIDS

How Meditation May Help People With HIV

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A mindfulness routine may lead to better health outcomes

From the time a person is diagnosed with any illness, the focus of their healthcare often shifts to managing sickness rather than promoting wellbeing. But new research shows that a non-pharmacological intervention could help play a role in HIV patient’s mental and physical health. Practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM), a 20-minute twice-a-day mindfulness regimen, may help people with HIV feel better, a small new study finds.

The project’s research, which is being submitted to scientific journals but is not yet published, was done with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the David Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit that funds research on stress reduction methods, including TM, for at-risk populations. In the 39 HIV patients who completed the study, researchers measured health factors like stress levels, wellbeing (using an established spiritual wellbeing scale), levels of psychological distress and physical symptoms related to HIV, like fatigue. They then taught TM to the patients, and after three months of meditation, patients experienced significant improvement, the study authors say. They got sick less frequently, were less fatigued and more energized and had better general health and physical functioning, says Thomas Roth, director of the David Lynch Foundation HIV Initiative and TM teacher of 40 years. Psychological symptoms got a boost, too: patients reported being less stressed and anxious, with decreased anger, hostility and depressive symptoms.

MORE: You Asked: Is Meditation Really Worth It?

The study didn’t look at blood biomarkers for things like stress, not did it measure the patients’ T-cell counts, instead relying on reports from the people in the study. More research is needed, and for now, says Roth: “My prediction two years ago was that this could improve the quality of life of people living with HIV.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Shrimp?

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

should i eat shrimp
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

5/5 experts say yes.

The lure of garlicky sautéed shrimp is hard to resist, and if you’re having these five experts over for dinner, there’s no need to try. Shrimp fans abound in this group.

“Shrimp is a rich source of lean protein; a 3-ounce serving provides nearly 20 grams of protein,” says cookbook author Tina Ruggiero, a registered dietitian. They’re also one of the most concentrated vehicles for selenium, a nutrient that may help fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and thyroid disease—that same 3-ounce serving fulfills about 45% of your daily requirement. And 3/5 experts give the crustacean’s high omega-3 content a thumbs up.

Make sure, however, to check the sodium content on your shrimp package. They’re natural sources of sodium, so avoid the extra salt dump that sometimes comes with food processing.

Is shrimp’s high cholesterol tally—107 mg per 3-ounce serving—worth your worry? Cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, doesn’t think so. “There’s very little evidence that dietary cholesterol influences most people’s risk of heart disease,” he says.

But there is a huge caveat, a strong one shared by many members of the shrimp dinner party of experts: Keep things American.

That’s not about being patriotic. Most shrimp Americans eat comes from Asia, but shrimp produced in the U.S. are generally held to stricter environmental standards. Plus, seafood sales can be rife with fraud: a new report from Oceana tested 143 shrimp products across America and found that 30% of shrimp were misrepresented. It’s a rampant practice: “Although 95% of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported, less than 10% of that is imported shrimp is inspected for adulteration such as antibiotics,” says Jeffrey Lotz, PhD, professor and chair of the department of coastal sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi.

MORE: There Are Antibiotics In Your Fish

The fisherman and author Paul Greenberg is also a shimp-phile, though with some important caveats. “Biologically speaking, shrimp should be an unqualified yes—they grow fast enough on the farm to produce two crops a year and are fertile enough in the wild to quickly rebuild after the fishing season closes,” he says. “But careless farming has caused the destruction of thousands of acres of tropical mangrove forest and careless fishing can result in many more pounds of accidentally caught ‘bycatch’ species killed than actual shrimp harvested. Both farming and fishing can be improved to reduce collateral damage. At the very least we could eat all that bycatch instead of letting it go to waste.”

It’s possible to evaluate your shrimp based on ecological factors, but you have to look beyond the nutrition facts label to get the whole story on shrimp, says Dustin Moss, director of the Shrimp Research Department at the Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University. Check out the certifications printed on bags, and see how your shrimp stacks up through the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which weighs criteria like poor farm management, bycatch loads and illegal fishing.

So there you have it: eat more shrimp, along with the other selenium-filled sea creatures dragged up with ‘em. Serving up seafood ceviche is the ecologically responsible—and healthy—thing to do.

TIME Heart Disease

A Gut Bacteria Compound Is Linked To Heart Failure

Most Americans know that diet and heart health are connected, but a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looks at a surprising reason as to why.

When your food gets to your stomach, your gut bacteria get to work. And when those bacteria digest carnitine, which is almost exclusively found in red meat, and choline, found in high-fat dairy products and egg yolks, they produce a metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. That’s bad news for your heart, because earlier animal research found that TMAO helps transport cholesterol to the arteries, where it forms dangerous plaques that can lead to heart disease.

Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, department chair of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, and his team measured the blood levels of TMAO in 720 stable patients with heart failure and followed them over five years, wondering if TMAO would help predict who would be in better shape—and who would be still alive.

It did. TMAO levels predicted mortality rates “very strikingly” over the five-year period: More TMAO in the blood meant a 3.4-fold increased risk of mortality—even after adjusting for all the traditional risk factors, Hazen says.

“It suggests that we’ve now learned a new link in the cause [of heart failure],” Hazen says. “It suggests that the impact of dietary manipulation and changes in gut microbe composition may be a way to impact the development and the adverse prognosis in heart failure.”

TMAO research is still fairly new. Just last year in a study of 2,595 people, Hazen’s team found that meat eaters had higher levels of carnitine and greater risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack than their vegan and vegetarian peers.

Still, Hazen doesn’t think it’s necessary for everyone to stop eating meat altogether. “What we are now trying to do is come up with a therapy that will prevent formation of TMAO, and hopefully prevent the development of cardiac disease…and the development of heart failure in its adverse prognosis,” Hazen says.

“I like kind of joking around, I’m hoping to come up with the pill that allows me to keep eating steak.”

TIME Research

Your Home Blood Pressure Monitor Might Be Way Off

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Up to 15% of home machines give the wrong readings, study finds

When one nephrologist at an Ottawa hospital asked a patient to bring in his home blood pressure monitoring machine, he only planned to teach him how to use it. But he noticed something strange. The measurement was 21 units off from the device the doctor uses in his office, a gulf that can mean the difference between normal and high blood pressure.

“That took me aback, because in some patients we are looking at home readings to make our decisions for treatment,” says Dr. Swapnil Hiremath of The Ottawa Hospital. So he decided to check out the machines of all his patients, expecting no more than 1% of the machines to give the wrong reading. Instead, according to a new study he’ll present at American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week next month, he and his team found that home blood pressure readings might be off in up to 15% of patients.

The researchers asked 210 patients to bring in their home blood pressure monitors and tested them against the gold-standard in-office machines—known as mercury sphygmomanometers. A full 30% were more than 5 units off in the systolic measurement, or when the heart is contracting, and 8% were off by more than 10. Diastolic blood pressure measurements, when the heart is resting between beats, were even more askew: 32% were off by 5 units, and 9% by more than 10 units.

Depending on the patient, those discrepancies could be enough to influence treatment decisions. Hiremath says he doesn’t know why so many of the readings are off, especially since all the machines are validated by FDA and Health Canada before they appear on the market. “Despite that,” he says, “these errors are happening and we’re getting these variations in readings.”

Hiremath takes three readings to ensure accuracy, and instead of merely encouraging his patients to test their home monitors against the kind used in doctors’ offices, now he all but mandates it. “It’s a resource intensive thing to do,” he says. “There are no easy fixes here.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Rise of Celiac Disease Still Stumps Scientists

What You Need to Know About Gluten
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This is your gut on gluten

Two new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine rocked the world of celiac research, both proving that scientists have a ways to go in their understanding of celiac disease, which affects about 1% of the population, whether they know it or not.

One Italian study wondered if the age at which gluten is introduced into the diet could affect a person’s likelihood of developing the autoimmune disease—so they kept gluten away from newborns for a year. To the shock of the researchers, delaying exposure to gluten didn’t make a difference in the long run. In some cases it delayed the onset of the disease, but it didn’t stop people from developing the disease, for which there is no cure.

The second study, of almost 1,000 children, introduced small amounts of gluten into the diets of breastfeeding infants to see if that fostered a gluten tolerance later on in those who were genetically predisposed to celiac disease. No such luck for them, either. Though both studies were excellently designed and executed, says Joseph A. Murray, MD, professor of medicine and gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, each was “a spectacular failure.”

What is it about gluten that causes so many people to double over in pain? How could the innocent, ancient act of breaking bread be so problematic for some?

It’s a question researchers are actively trying to answer. “I think of celiac disease now as a public health issue,” Murray says. He’s been researching the bread protein for more than 20 years and has seen the incidence of celiac disease rise dramatically; celiac is more than four times as common as it was 50 years ago, according to his research, which was published in the journal Gastroenterology. Even though awareness and testing methods have dramatically improved, they can’t alone account for all of that increase, he says.

About 1% of Americans have celiac disease, and it’s especially common among Caucasians. There’s a strong genetic component, but it’s still unclear why some people get it and other people don’t. It seems to affect people of all ages, even if they’ve eaten wheat for decades. And you can’t blame an increased consumption of the stuff; USDA data shows we’re not eating more of it.

Something else in the environment must be culpable, and theories abound about possible factors, from Cesarean sections to the overuse of antibiotics and the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that as our environment has become cleaner, our immune system has less to do and so turns on itself—and maybe particular foods like gluten—as a distraction.

Or maybe there’s something different about gluten itself. The wheat seed hasn’t changed all that much, but the way we process and prepare gluten products has, Murray says. “There have been some small studies looking at old forms of bread-making…that have suggested it’s not as immunogenic, it doesn’t drive the immune response as strongly as more modern grain or bread preparations,” Murray says.

A small 2007 study found that sourdough bread, when fermented with bacteria, nearly eliminates gluten—but we need much more research before the truly allergic should be reaching for a slice of the stuff.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the Center for Celiac Research and chief of the division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Mass General Hospital for Children, was a co-author of that recent study about breast-feeding and timing of gluten introduction. He says he found the “major, unpredictable results shocking. The lesson learned from these studies is that there is something other than gluten in the environment that can eventually tilt these people from tolerant to the immune response in gluten to developing celiac disease,” he says.

He suspects it may come down to how the modern, hyper-processed diet has influenced the makeup of our gut bacteria. “These bacteria eat whatever we eat,” Fasano says. “We’ve been radically changing our lifestyle, particularly the way that we eat, too fast for our genes to adapt.” Fasano hopes to explore the microbiome in his next study, in which he says he’ll follow kids from birth and search for a signature in their microbiome that predicts the activation of their gluten-averse genes, which leads to a child developing celiac disease. The hope, then, is that a probiotic or prebiotic intervention will bring the troubled guts back from “belligerent to friendly.”

“That would be the holy grail of preventive medicine,” he says.

Read next: ‘Gluten Free’ Label Now Actually Means Gluten Free

TIME Diet/Nutrition

This Free App Knows Exactly What’s in Your Food

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A new food database three years in the making is trying to change the way you eat.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) today launched EWG’s Food Scores: Rate Your Plate. The website rates more than 80,000 packaged foods from 1,500 brands, with criteria like nutrition, ingredient concerns, food additives, and how processed the product is. And a free app offers on-demand info at the smartphone scan of a barcode.

Some databases only consider nutrition information found on the label. But this one offers a more in-depth view of what’s in our food—from contaminants like BPA in canned foods, mercury in seafood, antibiotics in meat, arsenic in rice and pesticide residues in produce, to food additives, like preservatives, artificial and natural flavors and colors, low-calorie sweeteners and fat replacers.

More positive scores were given to foods higher in protein, fiber, omega-3s, and minimal processing—foods “closer to what you might find in your kitchen than what you might find in a chemical plant,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president and cofounder, in a statement.

Each product falls somewhere on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the best possible score and 10 being the worst. Only 18% of the products fell into what EWG called the “green zone,” while 57% were in the yellow-to-orange range and 25% were at the very bottom.

A full 58% of products tested contained added sugar, and 46% had natural or artificial flavors—the components of which are considered proprietary and don’t have to be disclosed. Organic packaged foods had an average of 9 ingredients, while convention foods had an average of 14.

“In many cases what we see on offer in in aisle after aisle of the supermarket doesn’t really qualify, in our view, almost as food,” said Cook. “It’s a series of packaged products that convey salt, sugar and other ingredients that often have very little to do with nourishment and everything to do with exactly what Americans want to avoid.”

The highly searchable database also includes an interactive calculator, which spits out personalized nutrition values based on your age, sex and life stage, and lets you sort products by whichever scary additive you’re concerned about this week. Want to know what’s really lurking in that cheese-dusted foodstuff on sale at the supermarket? You can play with your food here.

Read next: 5 Best Fitness Trackers for Around $50

TIME Autism

Autistic Kids May Benefit From This Kind of Parent-Led Therapy

Parents can learn how to give effective therapy to their children with autism, a new study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry finds.

Researchers at Stanford University looked at a type of therapy called Pivotal Response Training (PRT), which is one the of the handful of treatments shown to be effective for kids on the autism spectrum, says Kari Berquist, PhD, study co-author and a clinical instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and an autism clinician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The therapy focuses on improving kids’ motivation language skills by reinforcing their use of language related to the task at hand. One of the advantages is it can be done anywhere: anytime a child attempts to ask for something by name—a toy, say—they’d be rewarded with the item they requested, which reinforces their use of language.

They enrolled a group of parents of 53 autistic children between ages 2-6 in either a PRT course, which taught parents how to do the therapy with their kids, or a psychoeducation group, which taught general autism information. The children joined their parents for several sessions.

Researchers found that after just 12 weeks, 84% of parents were able to learn how to give effective PRT, and the children in the PRT group made significantly more progress than the other group in use of language and how often they were communicating.

“Group models are very new to autism treatment,” says Berquist, but the study shows that they can be effective while also being cheaper and coming with a built-in social support for parents. “I think this really allows us to get more people at once, to give more services at one time.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s the Good-Bad News About Trans Fats

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We still need to slash trans fat consumption, a new study finds

We’re eating less trans fat than we did 30 years ago, but we haven’t cut it by enough. A new study in The Journal of the American Heart Association analyzed the types of fat 12,000 adults were eating through six surveys that were part of the Minnesota Health Survey.

Between 1980-2009, both men and women slashed their trans fat consumption by about a third—32% and 35%, respectively. That’s encouraging, but the study also found that 1.9% of men’s daily calories come from trans fat, while 1.7% of women’s calories do. Per American Heart Association guidelines, that number should be much smaller: no more than 1% of daily calories.

Saturated fat dropped too, but people still eat about twice as much as the American Heart Association thinks is healthy. Omega-3 intake didn’t change much, and the group thinks it should be higher.

That makes for a mixed report card on fat, and another recent study found that we eat way more trans fat than we think. It lurks in all kinds of packaged foods—even in the labels that read “0 grams of trans fat”—and is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Last year, the FDA declared that it’s considering revoking trans fat’s classification as “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS.

To steer clear of added trans fat, check ingredient labels for words like “partially hydrogenated oil.” Even a little goes a long way toward 1% of your daily calories.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Cheese?

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

should i eat cheese
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

4/5 experts say yes.

Science types are a rational folk. But dangle a block of cheese in front of them and, nutrition be damned, taste comes first.

“Good bread, good cheese, and good wine? The best,” says Dr. David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “And frankly, pleasure is good for health.”

Meanwhile, Chuck Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, also gives cheese the thumb’s up—but with a caveat. He’s the author of several studies about dairy, including one from 2013 that found organic dairy has 62% more healthy omega-3s than conventional milk, partly due to the cow’s diet of fresh grass. Now, he’s a convert. “Pasture grasses and legumes provide milk cows with the building blocks for health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the rich, earthy flavor in grass-fed whole milk,” he says. And he only eats full-fat cheese (so there’s your scientific blessing to skip the skim stuff).

Speaking of fat, there might be something unique about the kind that comes from dairy. Recent research linked French Canadians’ dairy consumption to better metabolic health. The study author Iwona Rudkowska, a researcher at the CHU de Québec Research Center, points out that dairy contains a fatty acid has been shown to have health-promoting effects on metabolic health, including diabetes, she says.

Cheese—well, the fat in cheese—even helps our bodies absorb more nutrients during digestion, says Sylvie Turgeon, researcher and professor in the food science department at Université Laval in Québec. (The Québecois, it seems, really love their fromage.)

But in the health department, cheese gets a demerit from Katz. “In addition to be highly concentrated in calories and saturated fat, cheese tends to be very high in sodium,” says Katz. “It’s a good protein source, but there are better ones that don’t have such baggage.”

Registered dietitian Lindsay Malone, from the Cleveland Clinic, agrees. “A better way to spice up your salad, sandwich or snack,” she says, is “nuts, nut butters or avocados.”

If the thought of a grilled-nut-butter-sandwich gets you down, don’t despair. You can—and probably should—eat cheese sparingly for its protein, calcium and vitamin D, Malone says. Two slices of Swiss pack 44% of your daily calcium and 15 grams of protein.

The results are clear: even nutrition buffs go weak in the knees for cheese.

Read next: Should I Eat Eggs?

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