TIME food and drink

Man’s Iced Tea Habit Caused Kidney Failure

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Brian Macdonald—Getty Images Iced Tea

Doctors say he drank about 16 8-ounce cups every day

An Arkansas man’s kidney failure was apparently caused by his iced tea habit, doctors explain in a journal article out this week.

The 56-year old man went to the hospital last May with symptoms like weakness, fatigue, nausea and body aches, the Associated Press reports. His doctors, writing in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, said they had already ruled out several other possible causes when their patient said he drank 16 eight-ounce cups of iced black tea every day.

That type of tea includes oxalate, a chemical found in foods like nuts, wheat bran and chocolate, which can result in kidney stones—and in excessive amounts can cause kidney failure.

The man has been put on dialysis, perhaps for the remainder of his life, said Dr. Umbar Ghaffar of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

[AP]

TIME medicine

This Is What Binge Watching TV Does to Your Health

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Cultura/Liam Norris—Getty Images

Every hour spent sitting in front of the TV can increase your risk of diabetes

It’s easy—and tempting—to settle in for a marathon session with your favorite TV show, but that indulgence may come back to haunt you.

In a study of people at higher risk of developing diabetes, researchers say that every hour spent sitting can increase the risk of developing the metabolic disorder by 3.4%. For a day-long binge, that could be as much as a 30% higher risk. “With streaming TV, you can watch a program continuously; instead of watching just half an hour once day a week, you can watch a whole season in a day, so we expect to see increases in sitting to continue,” says Andrea Kriska, an epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh and senior author of the paper on the effects of TV on diabetes risk in the journal Diabetologia.

Kriska is part of the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, which found that people who spent more time sitting, whether in front of the TV or at work, were more likely to develop diabetes than those who sat less, regardless of how much they exercised.

MORE: Sitting Is Killing You

The group started with the population of people at higher risk of developing diabetes who were enrolled in the Diabetes Prevention Program. Some were assigned to exercise at least 150 minutes at a moderate level each week and change their diet with the goal of losing 7% of their body weight. Others were given the diabetes drug metformin, and another group was given a placebo. In 2002, after more than three years, those who adopted the lifestyle changes lowered their risk of developing diabetes by 58%, compared to 31% for those taking the drug.

More and more data suggest that to reduce disease, it’s not just enough to exercise more; you have to sit, less too. The scientists wanted to see what role, if any, sitting played in this reduction. Did being more physically active lead to helping people be less sedentary? And did time spent sitting have any connection with the rate of diabetes?

MORE: Sitting Can Increase Your Risk of Cancer By Up to 66%

“What we found was yes, and yes,” says Bonny Rockette-Wagner, from the department of epidemiology at Pittsburgh. “There is an independent effect of sitting behavior on diabetes incidence that does not have to do with physical activity. It’s an independent, additional effect.”

The researchers asked the 3,232 people in group how much time they spent sitting at work and how much time they spent watching TV, as a proxy for their total sedentary time. They also asked them about their leisure time physical activity and measured their blood glucose levels. After three years, the lifestyle group spent fewer hours sitting than the metformin and placebo groups, despite the fact that sitting less was not a specific goal of the program. And the more time they spent off their chairs, the lower their risk of going on to develop diabetes.

MORE: An Hour of Exercise Can Make Up for a Day of Sitting Down

The results suggest that efforts to help high-risk people avoid diabetes should include a goal of sitting less. That’s what Kriska and Rockette-Wagner are starting to do in their community sessions in which they teach people about the Diabetes Prevention Program. Instead of focusing exclusively on the target of 150 minutes of exercise each week, they’re asking people to think about sitting less, starting by spending a few minutes fewer on the couch each day and building up to becoming more active.

MORE: Sitting All Day Isn’t As Bad If You Do This

The researchers admit that simply sitting less won’t replace being physically active, but after so much focus on getting sedentary people to move, getting them to think about sitting less may be just as productive.

TIME medicine

See Which State Has the Highest Daily Use of Mood-Altering Drugs

It's also been ranked as the unhappiest state

Nearly one in five Americans admits to taking some sort of drug every day to help relax—most of them in states that rate low on the income and happiness scales, according to a new survey.

West Virginians are by far the most likely to take a prescription or over-the-counter drug to chill out, with 28 percent of those polled saying they do. Alaska appears to be the most naturally laid-back state, with just 13.5 percent saying they use drugs to calm down.

The rates are probably even higher than that, says Dan Witters, research director of the…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Military Suicides Aren’t Linked to Deployment, Study Finds

Military soldier with bag in airport, low section
Mike Powell—Getty Images Military soldier with bag in airport, low section

Service members who were not honorably discharged had a 21% higher suicide rate than those with honorable discharges

In certain branches of the military, suicide rates have almost doubled in the last decade. Now, sweeping new research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that the reasons are much more complicated than just deployment. In a comprehensive new study that looked at all 3.9 million members of the U.S. military from 2001-2007—including the Air Force, Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve. Marine Corps and Navy—suicide was not associated with deployment in the U.S.’s two most recent major conflicts: Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Those findings may be counterintuitive, says study author Mark A. Reger, PhD, Deputy Director at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology and chief of research, outcomes, and investigations, but some interesting theories have emerged.

“As the wars went on and deployments were occurring among our service members, the suicide rates were rising at the same time, so it’s very tempting to assume that it must be because of the deployment,” Reger says. But the strongest research from the Vietnam and Gulf War eras shows there’s not a significant difference in suicide rates between those who are deployed and the general population, he says. And that held true for the more recent conflicts. The authors looked at deployment in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations and found no association between deployment and suicide.

MORE: Military Suicides Down Overall, But National Guard Rates Up

He suspects part of the reason is that military members who are chosen for deployment may be among the most mentally fit. Prior to deployment, all service members go through pre-deployment screening to ensure that they’re mentally and physically ready for the challenges. “It is possible that those who deploy are healthier than those who did not deploy,” Reger says, although he adds that they didn’t have data to confirm that.

The authors didn’t look at data related to mental health status, medical status, combat exposure or combat injuries, so they were unable to see if those factors were linked to increase suicide risk. “All of these deserve future study,” Reger says.

Some patterns linked to suicide risk factors did emerge, however. Those who left the military early had a 63% higher suicide rate than people who had not separated from service. People with the fewest years of military service were also most at risk; service members who left the military after just a short stint of less than four years were at higher risk for suicide than those who left after serving four or more years, regardless of whether or not they’d been deployed. The study didn’t look at possible reasons for this, but the authors speculate that difficulty finding work, losing their military identity and having to find new social support may all play a role.

MORE: 22 Veterans Die By Suicide Every Day

Another big risk factor, the study authors concluded, was the nature of a service member’s discharge. Those who were not honorably discharged from the military had a 21% higher suicide rate than those who had an honorable discharge.

Making use of limited resources to prevent suicide is a key objective of the military, Reger says. Based on these findings, it’s possible that targeting prevention efforts more narrowly to those who leave the military early and those with a less-than-honorable discharge may be more efficient and impactful than casting a wide net and focusing prevention efforts on everyone who’s deployed, Reger says.

“I think the entire nation has a responsibility for working with service members and veterans, wherever they end up,” he says. “If our paper has the effect of influencing some of those in the prevention community beyond the military, that would be a good outcome.”

TIME Web

How Google Tricks You Into Thinking You’re Smarter

It's like a knowledge confidence booster, study suggests

Searching the Internet may inflate your perception of how knowledgeable you are, a new study says.

Researchers found that participants using Google search to answer specific questions believed they could later answer unrelated questions more accurately, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published online Monday.

Even when participants couldn’t find answers on the Internet, they still felt an increased self-assessment of how much knowledge they had. As a result, people may unintentionally exaggerate how much information they can recall on their own, the study said.

“It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source,” said lead researcher Matthew Fisher of Yale University. “When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the Internet.”

The study adds to existing research that suggests searching the Internet for information creates an increase in “cognitive self-esteem,” though not necessarily an increase in intelligence.

Read next: 11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search

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TIME Research

A New Blood Test Can Estimate How Serious Your Food Allergy Is

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Getty Images

A blood test may make diagnosing allergy severity a little less invasive

A blood test can reveal just how severe a person’s food allergy is and could possibly replace more invasive testing, a new study published Wednesday morning suggests.

Around 4 to 6% of American children have food allergies, a risk the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “a growing food safety and public health concern.” However, determining whether someone has a food allergy and then determining just how severe that food allergy is can be tricky.

To assess whether someone has a specific allergy, doctors will perform skin pricks or blood tests to look for skin reactions or high levels of allergy-specific antibodies. But doctors still don’t have a simple tool to test just how allergic a person is to a specific food. In some cases, the individual will need to eat whatever food they are allergic to in the presence of a physician so the doctor can determine the severity of their allergy in a safe space.

Of course, that experience isn’t without patient anxiety, which is one of the reasons why researchers at Mount Sinai Health System studied whether a blood test could predict allergy severity and potentially replace any tests that require ingesting allergens. Their research is published in the journal The Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

The test is called basophil activation test (BAT). It’s a blood test that measures the levels of an immune cell called basophil which is activated by food exposure. The researchers used the blood test on 67 people with food sensitivities between the ages of 12 and 45 while they also underwent an exposure test comparing their reactions to peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, or sesame versus a placebo. The allergens or placebo were given at random, and the goal was for the researchers to see if the results of the blood test corresponded to how the people reacted.

The test proved accurate, showing a high correlation with the BAT’s scores and the severity of the individuals’ reactions.

The researchers say the ultimate goal is to develop a new test that can become part of clinical allergy diagnoses in order to improve the quality of life for patients. “[This study] should encourage similar studies, which could lead to wide widespread clinical use,” says study author Dr. Xiu-Min Li, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Read next: Easter Egg Cookies Recalled For Containing … Eggs

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Foods That Taste Better in April Than They Will All Year

Never know what’s growing now? Let’s take it one season at a time, with the Foods That Taste Better Now Than They Will All Year.

It’s officially spring, which means delicious produce is just around the corner. While it’s still too early for most juicy fruits and crisp veggies to reach their peak, April is the best time for a handful of items grown in warmer regions of North America. “April is a little ad hoc—a little of this and a little of that,” says Chris Romano, an associate produce coordinator at Whole Foods. Here are the four foods he thinks should zoom to the top of your grocery list this month.

Ataulfo mangos: Usually mangos are characterized by their green color with a reddish blush, but these are a bright yellow. Ataulfo mangos are grown all over the world, but in April, some of the tastiest varieties come out of Mexico. “They’re a little bit flatter, a little bit smaller, but the flavor is phenomenal,” says Romano. “They’re very fragrant and very juicy as far as a mango is concerned. It’s great as a salsa or chutney and great to eat out of hand.”

Blackberries: It’s true that they’re typically a summer berry, but keep an eye out for blackberries from Mexico that will start hitting groceries in April. “Blackberries are very prolific in Mexico in April,” says Romano. “They are very big, very plump, and they have virtually no tartness. You eat one out of the container and won’t make it to the car.”

Asparagus: Spring is asparagus season, and April is a great month to pick up some spears. At this time of the year, plenty of asparagus comes out of regions in California where the soil is black and soft. Warm days and cool nights are ideal for asparagus growing, Romano says. During April, asparagus will be nice and thick with less white to trim off the bottom. Go for the thicker varieties, Romano recommends. “A lot of people think thin spears are the way to go, but they’re actually less tender,” he says. “The thicker ones are more fibrous.”

Artichokes: “You can see artichokes year-round, but this is by far the time to eat them,” says Romano. “They’re the most meaty artichokes you will have in the season and all year, and they have the biggest hearts.” Though you can buy artichoke hearts in a can, now is the time to buy them fresh. Don’t let the daunting shape of the artichoke deter you from cooking them—a simple steam will do them justice.

Strawberries: According to Romano, some of the best-tasting strawberries will likely hit grocery store shelves in the next few weeks.

Read next: The Maryland Crab In Your Crab Cake is Probably Fake

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TIME public health

You Asked: Why Do My Boobs Hurt?

You Asked: Why Do My Boobs Hurt?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Most of the time, blame hormones.

From a dull ache to a sharp stab, breasts hurt in a hundred different ways for a hundred different reasons. For many women, those myriad aches and stabs are the results of normal, healthy hormone fluctuations related to their menstrual cycles.

“Pain is most common during that period of a woman’s cycle just before she menstruates, when hormones like estrogen and progesterone peak,” says Karthik Ghosh, MD, director of the breast clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

You probably already knew that. But when your hormones go haywire, why do your breasts feel beat up? Rising estrogen levels stimulate the breasts’ milk ducts, while spiking progesterone does the same to a woman’s milk glands. Both can result in swelling and pain. Progesterone also causes fluid retention, which can lead to a feeling of heaviness or tenderness, Ghosh says.

With the onset of menstruation, levels of those hormones drop off, Ghosh says. For that reason, breast pain or tenderness tends to subside as soon as a woman starts her period. Because oral contraceptives iron out those hormonal peaks and valleys, women on birth control often don’t experience this monthly ebb and flow of aching. (But when women first start a contraceptive like the pill, some pain is common.)

Many women also experience cysts, which result when pockets of fluid form within the ducts of the breast. These cysts can sometimes be painful, says Dr. Susan Harvey, director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Imaging Section.

Young women in puberty, pregnant women and older women nearing menopause may all experience breast pain due to hormone fluctuations, says Dr. Bonmyong Lee, Harvey’s colleague and an assistant professor of radiology at Johns Hopkins. Particularly during the early stages of menopause, women who may have never had pain or cysts may suddenly start to experience both, Lee says.

Apart from these hormone-related issues, Ghosh says anything that causes chest wall muscle soreness—like starting a new workout—can cause what’s called secondary pain in the breasts. So can a common type of inflammation, called costochondritus, which affects the place where a woman’s ribs and sternum come together. Even an unsupportive brassiere can allow the breasts to pull on the chest wall, leading to pain, Ghosh says.

One condition that tends not to cause pain is cancer. For women who may notice a lump that is sensitive or painful, it’s more likely a benign cyst, Ghosh says. Still, she recommends seeing a doctor if you find a lump, painful or otherwise.

There are several less common or unproven causes of breast pain, from infection to caffeine consumption. So how can you determine whether to worry or brush it off? If the pain is concentrated in one part of your breast and doesn’t subside after a few weeks, see someone, Harvey says. You should also visit a doctor if your skin is flushed or red, which may be a sign of an infection.

“There’s no golden rule when it comes to identifying specific types of breast pain,” Ghosh says. “If it worries you or seems out of the ordinary, see a doctor.”

Read next: Should I Dry Brush My Skin?

 

TIME Aging

The World’s Oldest Person Has Died in Japan

The World's Oldest Person Celebrated Ahead Of Turning 117
Buddhika Weerasinghe—Getty Images Misao Okawa, the world's oldest Japanese woman, poses for a photo on her 117th birthday celebration at Kurenai Nursing Home on March 4, 2015, in Osaka, Japan

Misao Okawa was 117 years old

The world’s oldest person, who celebrated her 117th birthday less than a month ago, died early Wednesday in Osaka, Japan.

Staff at Misao Okawa’s nursing home said she died of heart failure, the Associated Press reported. She reportedly lost her appetite 10 days ago, and breathed her last with her grandson and carers beside her.

“She went so peacefully, as if she had just fallen asleep,” said Tomohiro Okada, an official at the home. “We miss her a lot.”

Born on March 5, 1898, Okawa was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 as the world’s oldest person. Okawa, who had two daughters and a son with her late husband, is survived by four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

[AP]

Read next: 13 Secrets to Living Longer From the World’s Oldest People

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TIME Cancer

How We’re Failing at Preventing Cancer

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JUAN GARTNER—Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF Illustration of cancer cells in middle of dividing

We’ve made lots of progress in preventing cancer, but still have a long way to go in convincing people to drop the most prevalent cancer-causing habits

You have to know your enemy in order to defeat it, and in cancer’s case, we know quite a bit about how to keep tumors from growing. But how well are we exploiting this knowledge?

The latest report, published Wednesday morning, from the American Cancer Society lays out the major risk factors for cancer, along with the screening strategies we have in place and documents whether people have been avoiding risky behaviors and complying with screening guidelines.

The results, says Stacey Fedewa, director of risk factors and screening surveillance and one of the co-authors, are mixed.

MORE: The Cancer Gap

When it comes to tobacco use, the largest preventable cause of cancer, rates of smoking have declined, from 23.5% in 1999 to 17.8% in 2013. But there are still pockets of the country, both geographically and demographically, where rates remain close to what they were 10 years ago. In West Virginia, for example, 27.3% of adults smoked cigarettes, and 22.7% of American Indians lit up. About 22% of high school graduates smoked, compared to 5.6% of those with a graduate degree. Smoking tobacco increases the risk of lung, mouth, larynx, esophagus, stomach and other cancers

The survey also found that smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes are also becoming popular, particularly among younger people. These forms of tobacco have been linked to higher rates of oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer. People aged 18 to 24 years were twice as likely to use smokeless products like chewing tobacco and snuff than older adults.

The creep of tobacco use into younger cohorts is concerning, since studies show that the younger smokers start, the harder it is for them to quit. In fact, the ACS study found that even one in 10 cancer patients smoked nearly a decade after their diagnosis.

MORE: 66% of People Diagnosed with Cancer Survive At Least 5 Years

Fedewa says that obesity is also connected to a number of cancers, including breast, colon, kidney, pancreas and certain lymphomas and myelomas. And while obesity rates have stabilized, they remain high, with more than two thirds of adults considered overweight or obese. That rate may not change for a while, given the fact that in 2013, 30% of adults said they had no recreational physical activity at all. “I was surprised to see how low the percent of adults who reach the recommended physical activity levels was,” says Fedewa. Government guidelines suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, and only about half of adults accomplish this.

Screening is another area with both good news and bad news. Public health messages about the importance of getting mammograms to detect breast cancer, and colonoscopy to pick up colorectal cancer, have raised awareness about these diseases. But rates of colon cancer screening have remained around 58%. Part of the reason may have to do with cost; studies showed that uninsured people tend to have the lowest rates of cancer screening, something that the Affordable Care Act should change. It’s also possible that conflicting news about the benefits and risks of screening, and changing advice about who should be screened and when — in 2009 groups said that women between ages 40 and 40 years no longer needed annual mammograms — may also hamper compliance.

More studies are also throwing out clues about the best anti-cancer diet, with fruits and vegetables at the top of the list. But, says Fedewa, “only 15% of adults ate the recommended three or more servings of vegetables a day. That’s surprising, and pretty low given all the messages about eating healthier.”

Also discouraging is the continued use of tanning beds despite the fact that the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists the devices as cancer-causing to people. In 2014, 4.4% of adults, and 20% of high school girls, reported using the beds in the previous year. That may explain why rates of melanoma, unlike some other cancers, have been increasing in the past 30 years.

“I don’t think there is one message” about how we’re doing in preventing cancer, says Fedewa. “It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a lot to be appreciated for what we’ve done in tobacco control; that’s a great public health accomplishment. But there is room to grow.”

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