TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why We Like Food That Makes Noise

TIME.com stock photos Food Snacks Potato Chips
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

What your food 'sounds' like affects how good it tastes, a new study says

The crunch of a chip, the snap of a carrot, or the fizz of a freshly opened beverage may greatly influence just how good we think those foods taste, according to new flavor research.

Flavor perception is multi-sensory. “The flavor of food is reduced to a mere whisper when its scent is lost,” chef Molly Birnbaum once said. In a new report published in the journal Flavour, researcher Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University reviews a wide variety of research related to sound and flavor perception, and comes to the conclusion that what a food sounds like is incredibly important to the experience of eating it. That sound, he says, is the “forgotten flavor sense.”

“Our brains are all the time trying to pick up correlations in the environment,” says Spence. According to his research, people use sounds to assess how tasty food is, even if they don’t realize it. In one of the studies he highlights, consumers used the word “crisp” more than any other descriptor when they were asked to evaluate 79 foods. Another study completed in 2007 by University of Leeds researchers to determine just how important bacon crispiness is to a BLT, the lead researcher concluded: “We often think it’s the taste and smell of bacon that consumers find most attractive. But our research proves that texture and the crunching sound is just—if not more—important.”

Science has also shown that changing the sounds a food makes can influence a person’s perception of it. In his own prior research, Spence showed that people give carbonated beverages higher ratings when the sound of the bubbles popping becomes louder and more frequent.

But why is the way food sounds important to us? For one, Spence says it could be that sound is an indicator for texture and therefore quality. Texture can reveal how fresh food is. If an apple cracks crisply when it’s bitten into, instead of yielding without a snap, you know that’s a good sign.

Even soft foods, like bread, bananas or mousse can make subtle sounds when they’re bitten, sliced or plunged into with a spoon, and Spence says he believes the commercialization of sounds in the food industry may soon be growing in a big way.

“It’s going to start out with modernist chefs,” Spence predicts. Food modifications could also be used to help make food more pleasurable for the elderly whose overall senses may be decreasing, he adds.

Outside sound can also influence perception, and it doesn’t require much effort. “If I’m having Italian food and I’m hearing music of that region, it may make me perceive the food as more authentic,” he says. Even the ice cream company Häagen-Dazs launched an app where customers can scan their ice cream carton and listen to a violin concerto timed to allow the ice cream to soften.

Still, Spence says he largely feels like sound isn’t being considered in the food industry as often as it could be. A 2003 survey of 14o food scientists showed they rated sound as the least important attribute contributing to flavor. But as research continues to emerge and the industry continues to experiment, we may be listening to our food more often.

TIME Depression

How Pilots Are Screened for Depression and Suicide

While it’s not clear exactly why Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into a French mountainside, the black box from the cockpit raises questions about whether mental health issues were involved, and how aviation officials identify and monitor the mental health of pilots.

Prosecutor Brice Robin said that the cockpit recordings suggest the lead pilot was locked out of the flight deck after leaving for the restroom, and that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz “voluntarily allowed the aircraft to lose altitude. He had no reason to do this. He had no reason to stop the captain coming back into the cockpit.” As investigators search for a second black box, experts are trying to piece together the reasons why Lubitz acted the way he did. His mental state remains a possible cause.

If the investigation reveals that mental health played a role, it wouldn’t be without precedent. In a 2014 study in the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, researchers looked at 20 years of data for what they called “aircraft assisted suicide.” From 1993-2012, 24 of 7,244 plane crashes were thought to be deliberately caused by a pilot. That’s less than 1% of the total, but it’s still enough to raise questions about the mental health stressors of pilots.

“I really wish that we had some kind of deeper thinking about this issue, because it’s one of the most difficult in aviation medicine,” says Alpo Vuorio, MD, PhD, the study author and an aviation specialist in occupational medicine at the Mehiläinen Airport Health Centre in Finland. He screens pilots and cabin crew of commercial airlines for health issues—including mental health issues—and says he sees any given commercial pilot once a year for a short visit.

Commercial pilots have to pass a physical and mental evaluation every six months (for those over 40) or once a year (for those under 40) in order to be certified to fly a passenger plane. The emphasis, however, is on the physical and less on the mental, mainly because mental health is harder to quantify.

“You somehow try to see if the pilot is well, and it’s not the easiest thing,” Vuorio says. Pilots answer yes-or-no questions about their mental health, Vuorio says, like if they’ve ever tried to attempt suicide or visited a psychiatrist. “You speak yes or no, but it’s up to you, what you tell,” he says. Pilots can visit several different locations for these examinations, he says, and if they don’t occur in house, past data don’t appear on the screen.

And pilots aren’t likely to divulge any potential mental health problems, including signs of depression or anxiety, because that would take them out of the sky. “Pilots aren’t going to tell you anything, any more than a medical doctor would about their mental health,” says Scott Shappell, professor of the Human Factors Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University who is a former pilot and crash scene investigator.

Pilots, like doctors and policemen and others with high-stress jobs, tend to be good at compartmentalizing — walling off difficult or emotional experiences so they don’t interfere with their ability to function day-to-day. Medical examiners who evaluate pilots for their recertification also aren’t always trained in mental health, so they may not recognize subtle signs of conditions such as depression or alcoholism.

According to Dr. William Sledge, medical director of the Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital who has evaluated pilots for the Federal Aviation Administration, about 40% of pilots he saw were for alcohol related problems, and a third for depression or anxiety. Only about half of the latter group reported their problems themselves, however. The other half were referred to Sledge only after incidents required their superiors to intervene.

“The problem is there is no incentive” to report mental health issues, says Shappell. “They know that if they self report, the way the system is designed, it will be a black mark.”

In a statement, the FAA said: “Pilots must disclose all existing physical and psychological conditions and medications or face significant fines of up to $250,000 if they are found to have falsified information.”

In the case of mental health evaluations, pilots are taken off the flight schedule while they are treated or begin antidepressant medications. Until 2010, even these drugs were banned, and pilots required them could no longer fly.

When the U.S. Air Force began requiring annual suicide prevention and awareness training in 1995, including screening for mental illness, the suicide rate plummeted from about 16 suicides per 100,000 members to about 9.

Even for experts, however, judging whether a pilot is suicidal is one of the hardest parts of the job. That’s no surprise, since the struggles of spotting and talking about suicide plague our entire society, says Barbara Van Dahlen, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and president of Give an Hour, a network of volunteer therapists. “In our society we are so quick to try to make it ok, to say it will pass and to say suck it up,” she says. “We really don’t listen to ourselves and we don’t listen to others very effectively.”

But pilots and others in high-pressure occupations face several unique stressors, she says, like having a physically demanding job and being responsible for other lives. “In a lot of positions of authority and leadership, those people are supposed to be capable and on top of things,” she says. “They don’t have a lot of people to share with and talk to, to be less than perfect and less than OK. That adds to the stress.”

One study of suicides among general aviation pilots—civilians who aren’t leading scheduled commercial flights—published in the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, looked at 21-years’ worth of general aviation accidents as reported by the National Transportation Safety Board between 1983-2003. During that time, 37 pilots either committed or attempted suicide by aircraft, and nearly all resulted in a fatality. 38% of the pilots had psychiatric problems, 40% of the suicides or attempts were linked to legal troubles, and almost half, 46%, were linked to domestic and social problems. 24% of the cases involved alcohol and 14% involved illicit drugs.

Having ready access to a plane also seemed to be a contributing factor, too; 24% of the crashed planes in the study were used illicitly.

Read next: German Pilots Cast Doubt on Blaming of Co-Pilot for Crash

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME ebola

American Patient With Ebola Has Condition Upgraded

The patient is now in serious, rather than critical, condition

The American patient being treated for Ebola is improving, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH announced on Thursday that the patient has had her condition upgraded from critical to serious. The patient, who was working to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone, arrived at the NIH in Bethesda, Md. on March 13 for treatment.

The patient is one of 17 volunteers for Partners in Health who were brought to the United States for precautionary monitoring. The NIH has not released any further details about the patient.

The American patient is the second to be treated by the NIH for Ebola. The team also treated Dallas nurse Nina Pham who was infected after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

The current Ebola outbreak reached one year this week. So far 24,927 people have been infected and 10,338 people have died from the disease.

TIME Addiction

A New Government Anti-Smoking Campaign Includes E-Cigs

Past campaigns have increased calls to quitlines by 80%

A new federal ad campaign against smoking features e-cigarettes for the first time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest ad in its ongoing “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign. The campaign features real Americans who have experienced serious health or social consequences from smoking. Often the ads are explicit. On March 30, the first ad about e-cigarettes, as opposed to traditional tobacco, will air.

The ad features a 35-year-old woman named Kristy who picked up e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. She ended up using both products. Eventually she had a collapsed lung and was diagnosed with lung disease. She’s a married mother of three who works as a truck driver.

Kristy's Tip Print Full Page Ad
CDC

“Nationally, about 3 in 4 adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes,” the CDC says in a statement. “If you only cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke by adding another tobacco product, like e-cigarettes, you still face serious health risks.”

Other ads focus on side effects like vision loss and colorectal cancer.

In 2014, the CDC says the national quit line received 80% more calls when the ads were on the air, and since 2012 the ads have generated more than 500,000 additional calls. The ads will run for 20 weeks on TV, radio, online, billboards, in theaters and in magazines and newspapers. Kristy’s ads will be on the radio and in print.

The ads encourage smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.cdc.gov/tips.

Read next: These 4D Ultrasound Photos Show How Fetuses Respond to Their Mothers’ Smoking

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

How Men Can Protect Against Cancer

man running on treadmill
Getty Images

Being fit is linked to a 68% lower risk of cardiovascular disease death

It’s no surprise that being physically fit helps protect against heart disease, but a person’s level of fitness might also have a profound effect on cancer outcomes long before a diagnosis. According to a new study in JAMA Oncology, men who were very fit in middle age were 32% less likely to die from cancer after being diagnosed after age 65 than men who weren’t fit in midlife.

“It’s pretty remarkable that a fitness estimate 10-15 years before your actual cancer diagnosis can predict how long you’re going to live after you develop cancer,” says Dr. Susan Lakoski, one of the study’s authors and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Vermont, Burlington.

Lakoski and her colleagues looked at fitness data, measured by a treadmill test, and cancer data—specifically prostate, lung and colorectal cancer—from about 14,000 men for 6.5 years. Men who were very fit at age 50 had a 55% lower risk of lung cancer and a 44% reduced risk of colorectal cancer compared to men who weren’t fit at 50.

MORE: You Asked: Is Running On A Treadmill As Good As Running Outside?

(The researchers did not see this association with prostate cancer. Though more research is need to figure out why, they hypothesize that it’s because men who are very physically fit tend to have better health behaviors like going to the doctor, which makes them more likely to be diagnosed than someone who doesn’t get screened as frequently as something like prostate cancer, which is common but often does not require treatment.)

The protective benefits of exercise didn’t stop there. Of the men who eventually were diagnosed with lung, prostate and colorectal cancer by age 65 or older, being very fit in midlife was associated with a 32% reduced risk of cancer-related death and a 68% lower risk of cardiovascular death compared to men who had low fitness in midlife.

Here’s the best part: it doesn’t take a lot of exercise to have a big health impact, Lakoski found. “Just a small improvement in fitness made a difference in survival of those that developed cancer,” she says. Compared to men who could run 12-minute miles on the treadmill at age 50, men who ran slightly faster 11.5-minute miles had an additional 10% decrease in cancer death and an extra 25% decrease in cardiovascular death among those who developed cancer in the study.

Lakoski hopes that clinicians will start using fitness measurements in their practices to help make preventive exercise plans for their patients. “We talk about personalized medicine a lot now in medicine when we think about genetics, but we don’t think about it in terms of healthy behaviors,” she says. Objective fitness measures are great ways to develop personalized exercise training regimens, she says, with real implications for lifespan. “It is a very robust marker of survival,” she says, “and we’re not using it enough in practice.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Canned Tuna?

3/5 experts say yes.

It’s not the sexiest fish in the sea. But tuna—even once it’s caught, frozen, thawed, cooked, chopped and canned—still gets a nod of approval from most of our experts. Still, some aren’t pulling out their can openers anytime soon.

First, though, some tuna praise. A typical five-ounce can of light tuna has 28 grams of protein, an impressive 56% of your daily requirement.

It’s also a great source of the heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. But all tuna is not tinned equally. In a study published in Public Health Nutrition, researchers analyzed canned tuna products in U.S. grocery stores. Tuna packed in water had higher EPA and DHA counts and lower omega 6: omega 3 ratios, compared to those packed in oil.

“I specifically recommend light canned tuna in water, which provides good omega-3 fatty acids,” says study author Asim Maqbool, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Another plus: Light tuna isn’t as high in mercury as albacore tuna, Maqbool says—it packs about half the mercury of albacore.

Mercury is the primary concern in big fish like tuna. Pollution releases mercury into the air, and as it accumulates in the ocean, fish absorb it from the waters and their mercury stores build up, according to the FDA. When you eat certain kinds of fish—especially big, fatty fish like tuna—mercury can build up in your bloodstream over time, too.

Canned tuna has lower mercury levels than tuna steaks and sushi, and two canned tuna meals a week is a safe threshold, the FDA says. The agency is currently revising its guidelines about pregnancy and fish consumption; they hope to encourage more pregnant woman and children to eat fish for its many nutritional benefits. At 13 mcg per 4 ounces, light canned tuna lands in their “lower mercury” category, along with others like salmon (2 mcg of mercury for 4 ounces) and shrimp (less than 1 mcg per 4 ounces).

But Philippe Grandjean, MD, a toxin researcher and adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health, contends there’s no room for any kind of canned tuna in the diet. “Canned tuna contributes more than one-third of the mercury exposure of the average American,” he says. “About one in six women in coastal U.S. populations have elevated mercury exposures that could cause harm to the fetus.”

He urges people to eat salmon, mackerel and shrimp, which have considerably less mercury than tuna. That recommendation is echoed by Michael Gochfeld, MD, PhD, professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University. “Pregnant women should not eat canned white tuna and should limit canned light tuna,” he says. “They would be much better off choosing canned salmon instead, which is very low in mercury and much higher in beneficial omega 3s.”

Mercury isn’t the only contaminant of concern. The chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, is an endocrine disruptor often present in the linings of canned foods. “Especially in children, diet is the major source of BPA exposure, with the predominant source being canned food consumption,” says Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at New York University School of Medicine, and author of several recent papers on the health costs of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Studies show that eating canned foods can increase BPA levels, while eating more fresh food can reduce it.

Switching to BPA-free cans might not offer enough protection, though. Alternative linings like oleoresin don’t have enough safety data behind them, Trasande says, and sometimes, the chemicals substituted may be worse than BPA. “Increasingly the synthetic chemical BPS is being used as a substitute for BPA, and studies suggest that BPS is as estrogenic and even more persistent in the environment,” he says. “BPS may therefore actually be more problematic from a health perspective.”

Still, the health benefits of canned tuna outweigh potential contaminant risks, says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “All studies comparing the inclusion versus the exclusion of fish show better health associated with the inclusion of fish in the diet,” he says. “Those contaminants are unfortunate—but that’s the reality in a world we haven’t treated all that well. Perfectly ‘pure’ food no longer exists on this planet.”

canned tuna
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Read next: Should I Eat Shrimp?

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME HIV/AIDS

HIV Triggers a Public Health Emergency in Indiana

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.
Darron Cummings—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.

Intravenous drug use identified as the source of infections

Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency Thursday in south Indiana’s Scott County, which has seen a large HIV flare-up from intravenous drug use.

At least 79 HIV confirmed cases have been tied to the southern Indiana country since January, up from fewer than five new cases in a typical year, and the state expects that figure to rise as officials scramble to alert up to 100 people linked to those newly infected. Intravenous drug use has been named as the primary infection source in every confirmed case.

“This is all-hands-on-deck. This is a very serious situation,” Pence said at a news conference on Thursday.

The emergency order will set up a command center to coordinate HIV and substance abuse treatment. Pence also authorized a temporary needle-exchange program, on recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the governor had previously said he opposed the practice.

“Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” the Governor said in a statement. “ I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”

Read next: This Map Shows the Deadliest Counties in the U.S.

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Education

Education Does Not Make You a Happier Person

Silhouetted profile of woman wearing graduation cap
Getty Images

A new study finds that the chance of happiness is the same, whether you went to college or not

There is no link between your education level and your personal happiness, says a new mental-health research study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

According to a press release, researchers from Warwick Medical School were inspired by the strong association between poor education and mental illness and wanted to investigate if the opposite was true: Does being educated lead to happiness?

The team discovered that the odds of happiness were equivalent throughout all levels of educational attainment.

“These findings are quite controversial because we expected to find the socioeconomic factors that are associated with mental illness would also be correlated with mental well being,” said Sarah Stewart-Brown, the lead author on the study. “But that is not the case.”

Researchers defined happiness as a state of high mental well-being in which people “feel good and function well.” They applied this to data from the Health Survey for England, which was administered to 17,030 people in 2010 and 2011.

Stewart-Brown said that her discovery means that socioeconomic factors may not be applicable to programs aimed at boosting mental well-being.

TIME Research

Google Granted Patent for Smart Contact Lens

This undated photo released by Google shows a contact lens Google is testing to explore tear glucose.
Google/AP Google's smart contact lenses.

May allow people with diabetes to easily measure glucose levels

Google has been granted a patent for a contact lens with an embedded chip,

The patent, which was discovered by WebProNews, features a sensor in the lens. Google has previously said that it is partnering with the pharmaceutical company Novartis to create a smart contact lens that could monitor blood sugar for people with diabetes.

As TIME has previously reported, Google has been testing various prototypes of smart contact lens and is currently in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about a lens that measures glucose levels in users’ tears. The company says the chip and sensor are embedded between two layers of contact lens material and a tiny pinhole lets tear fluid from the eye reach the glucose sensor, and the sensor can measure levels every second.

Diabetics must currently prick their fingers throughout the day to measure blood sugar levels, but Google believes the contact lenses would be less invasive and allow people with diabetes to check glucose more often and more easily.

When asked if the patent is indeed for the smart contact lens for diabetes patients, Google told TIME the company does not comment on patent filings. “We hold patents on a variety of ideas—some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents,” a Google spokesperson said in an email.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com