TIME Exercise/Fitness

Meet the Transgender Man Leading the Men’s Health Cover Contest

At first glance, Aydian Dowling looks like the average reader of Men’s Health magazineand an excellent contender for the title’s annual cover contest. Besides his handsome, bearded face, he’s got a solid six-pack and plenty of cool tattoos.

But Dowling is actually on the cusp of marking a historic first for the magazine and for men like him. The 27-year-old proud transgender man is currently destroying the field of candidates in the reader’s choice portion of the contest.

“It’s crazy,” Dowling told People. “It’s phenomenal, the amount of support it’s gotten—how many people have re-Tweeted and re-blogged and re-posted and liked and shared and commented and voted.”

Read more: Meet the Transgender Teen Who’s One of the New Faces of Clean & Clear

Will he be the next Men’s Health “Ultimate Guy” cover star? Well, he is surpassing the No. 2 contender by more than 27,000 votes as of this writing. And he certainly fits the magazine’s criteria: “a guy who is fit and fearless, a doer who gives back and leads by example.”

Assigned female at birth, it took Dowling most of his life to come out as trans. From an early age, he identified as male, but faced criticism from the people around him. “I just wanted to act a certain way, but I was told that was not how girls act,” he told Men’s Health as part of their feature series on each of the contestants.

He came out as a lesbian during his teenage years, but it wasn’t until he was 21 that his then-girlfriend asked him: Have you ever wanted to be a boy?

At the time, Dowling didn’t want to be trans, he told Men’s Health. “I was scared, and I thought being a lesbian was hard enough.” But shortly after that question, he started to think about it. He began searching for information online about transitioning, according to The Daily Beast.

Read more: Coming Out at School Better for LGBT Youth, Study Finds

This was in 2009. Before Bruce Jenner announced he’d sit down with Diane Sawyer and before Laverne Cox (from Orange Is the New Black) was named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people. Dowling couldn’t find much of anything about being trans save for a clip from the Maury Show in which a man revealed that he had transitioned from a woman. Still, “that little three-minute clip was life-changing,” Dowling told The Daily Beast.

He spent the next five years vlogging about his own transition via his YouTube channel, which he still updates, now with advice for others going through the process.

Dowling lives in Eugene, Oregon, with his wife of three years, and stays busy selling and promoting his clothing company, Point 5cc, which offers free chest binders to trans men in need. (These garments are often worn my female-to-male transgender people to flatten their chests. They can be pricey, but they often curb the intense discomfort associated with gender dysphoria.) Each year, Point 5cc awards the Transgender Surgery Fund to a person pursuing a gender-confirming surgery.

On top of that, Dowling maintains another YouTube channel called BeefHeads Fitness, a collaborative page dedicated to bodybuilding and lifestyle tips for people who have transitioned from female to male.

“I started bodybuilding because I wanted my outer body to feel more masculine like my inner soul does, so I started training and it really just changed my whole life,” he told People. “I started to feel better. You’re forced in front of a mirror to make sure that you’re doing an exercise properly, and after five days a week in front of a mirror, you start to get used to your body. You start to appreciate it.”

Read more: Here’s Why Sam Smith Says Accepting His Body Helped His Career

Dowling started BeefHeads Fitness in the hopes that it would help others in the community feel more confident in their bodies. The feedback from the channel, along with encouragement from friends and family, pushed him to enter the Men’s Health cover competition.

“I want to break the stereotype of what a man should or shouldn’t be,” he said to People. “I think it would blow minds. I think it would be so affirming to young kids who are lost right now and depressed to see somebody on a magazine, to see if I can do it, they can do it too.”

If Dowling wins the overall competition, he would not only be the first transgender male to be featured on the cover of Men’s Health, but the first to ever appear on any major national magazine.

“Having a trans person on the cover would tell people that no matter who you are, you can be the man you want to be,” he told Men’s Health. “It’s fully possible if you put the time and effort and balance it takes to find the man in you.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Smell of Your Sweat Can Make Other People Happy

sweat exercise
Getty Images

Another reason happiness might be contagious

People seem to be able to send happy vibes through their sweat, according to a new study in Psychological Science. The study found that women showed more signs of happiness when they sniffed sweat made by happy men than when they smelled sweat generated by men in a neutral emotional state.

“Being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state,” said study author Gün Semin, a professor at Utrecht University, in a statement. “Somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness.”

MORE: What Pheromones Really Reveal About Your Love Life

Determining how sweat affects the happiness of the people who smell it required some unusual experiments. Researchers showed film clips to a group of 12 men that inspired either fear or happiness. A control group of men was shown neutral scenes. After screening the clips, researchers collected sweat samples from the men by placing pads in their armpits and asked 36 women to smell a vial with the scent of the pads. Researchers measured the facial expression prompted by each sweat sample. Women smiled more when they smelled the sweat of happy men than sweat made after men watched a neutral video clip.

The study is small and more research is needed. Previous research has shown that chemosignaling—or conveying emotion through smell—can inspire negative emotions in others, but these findings show that smells might be able to inspire happy emotions, too.

Read next: 6 Signs You’re Not Working Out Hard Enough

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TIME public health

California Measles Outbreak Is Over, Health Officials Say

No new cases related to the outbreak have been reported in 42 days

A measles outbreak that infected 131 Californians has ended, the state’s Department of Public Health said Friday.

The outbreak, which began in December at Disneyland, infected people ranging from 6 weeks to 70 years old, sending 19% of them to the hospital. No new cases related to the outbreak have been reported in 42 days, officials said.

“Having this measles outbreak behind us is a significant accomplishment,” Gil Chavez, California’s state epidemiologist, said during a press call. “Measles can be very serious with devastating consequences.”

Health officials believe a tourist brought measles to Disney’s Anaheim, Calif. theme parks in December, eventually infecting 42 people at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The disease then spread to a number of students, teachers, health care workers and other Californians. No deaths were reported.

At least 56 of the people who contracted measles during the outbreak had not been vaccinated, according to Chavez (the vaccination status of 38% of those who were infected is unknown). He encouraged unvaccinated people to get the measles vaccine “to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones and to protect the community at large.”

TIME Cancer

Why Some Cancer Patients Are Losing Their Fingerprints

A strange and rare side effect of some cancer drugs

Fingerprints are the ultimate way to tell one person from another—they’re unique, permanent and seemingly immutable.

But a 65-year-old woman was denied service at a bank recently when she showed up without fingerprints, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. The woman, a breast cancer patient, is one of a small group of people who have lost their fingerprints as a result of chemotherapy drugs.

Courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine
Courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine

 

The loss of fingerprints is the extreme version of a common ailment known as Hand-Foot Syndrome, which afflicts more than half of patients taking some cancer drugs. Typical symptoms of Hand-Foot Syndrome include redness and swelling on the hands and feet.

It’s hard to say exactly how many people experience fingerprint loss as a result of Hand-Foot Syndrome, but the number represents a small fraction of patients with the ailment, says Massachusetts General Hospital oncologist Don Dizon, an expert at the American Society of Clinical Oncology who was not involved with the report.

In this case, a situation at the bank revealed the fingerprint loss and the doctors explained the circumstances to the bank. But many cases likely go unreported because most people don’t need to use their fingerprints in day-to-day life, Dizon says. Many of the known cases of fingerprint loss have been discovered at United States Border Patrol stations that require fingerprints, he says.

But since fingerprints are increasingly being integrated into cell phone use and identification technology, we might see fingerprint loss more and more, says Dizon.

Because Hand-Foot Syndrome is a side effect of a lifesaving drug, most doctors largely treat the symptoms. Dizon recommends patients chill their hands and feet to reduce swelling. For most people, hands and feet will return to their normal condition once they’ve stopped their chemotherapy treatment. But there’s no answer from current literature about whether fingerprint loss can ever be reversed.

“I’m not sure,” Dizon says about whether or not a patient can get fingerprints back. “You would need to study these patients a little longer.”

Read next: Smokers Don’t Think a Few Cigarettes Will Harm Their Health

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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 medicine

Smokers Don’t Think a Few Cigarettes Will Harm Their Health

smoking
Getty Images

Nearly everyone knows that smoking is harmful for your health. But some refuse to admit that their habits may be killing them

Heart disease, lung cancer, throat cancer, diabetes—the list of bad things that smoking does to your health is long and growing longer. Thanks to public health warnings and education campaigns, most of us have heard that cigarettes can be dangerous to your wellbeing and can shorten your life.

But one group who should be getting that message loud and clear may be in a bit of denial. In a study of more than 1,600 French smokers and non-smokers, 34% said that lighting up 10 cigarettes a day would not put them at higher risk of lung cancer. And fewer than 40% knew that their risk of lung cancer wouldn’t disappear if even if they quit smoking. The results were presented at the European Lung Cancer Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The fact that one third of subjects wrongly considered that a daily consumption of up to 10 cigarettes was not associated with any risk of lung cancer is particularly impressive and threatening,” writes study author Dr. Laurent Greillier from Aix Marseille University in response to questions about the findings.

The results were especially worrisome since the participants in the study were 40 years old to 75 years old and therefore spent most of their adult lives hearing strong public health warnings about the dangers of smoking. That means that while anti-smoking campaigns have been effective, they may not have educated people deeply enough about the dangers of tobacco. That’s especially true for people who engage in what they consider to be “safe” or “light” smoking, the study finds. “Our results suggest that public health policies must continue to focus on the tobacco pandemic, and notably initiate campaigns concerning the risk of any cigarette,” says Greillier.

TIME HIV/AIDS

At Least 120 Now Infected In Indiana HIV Outbreak

Another 10 infections are awaiting confirmation

The number of people infected in southeastern Indiana’s HIV outbreak has grown to at least 120, up by more than 20 in the last week alone, the state health department said Friday. Another 10 infections are awaiting confirmation.

The scale of the outbreak in the remote Scott County, home to around 25,000, caused alarm for health officials. The rapid growth in infections appeared to stem from the sharing of needles by intravenous drug users.

“This sharp increase in the number of HIV-positive cases demonstrates just how critical it is that we are able to locate and test people who have been exposed so that they can avoid spreading it to others and get medical treatment,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams in a press release.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency last month, and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent staff to Indiana to investigate. More than 5,300 syringes have been provided to local residents after a needle exchange program began earlier this month.

“This community has been dealing with used syringes being tossed in yards and public areas for a long time, but I want to stress that it’s not safe to pick up syringes,” said Adams.

TIME animals

Dog Flu Is Spreading In The Midwest

'It’s believed that the H3N2 strain was introduced here from Asia, but how it happened is not known'

Pet owners beware: dog flu exists and it’s spreading. At least 1,000 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana were infected in the last month, according to research from the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University.

Doctors at the two schools identified the virus as a strain of H3N2, a branch of the disease commonly found in Chinese and South Korean dog populations. The virus is not believed to spread to humans.

“It’s believed that the H3N2 strain was introduced here from Asia, but how it happened is not known,” said Keith Poulsen, a University of Wisconsin veterinarian, in a press release.

Veterinarians suggest pet owners largely approach dog flu the way they approach human influenza. Dogs should be vaccinated and avoid contact with other dogs in areas with flu outbreaks. Additionally, dogs’ human handlers should wash their hands before touching other dogs.

TIME celebrities

Group of Doctors Tells Columbia University to Fire Dr. Oz

Ten doctors wrote a letter urging Columbia University to fire Dr. Mehmet Oz saying he "endangers" the public

A group of doctors has written a letter urging Columbia University to fire Dr. Mehmet Oz from its faculty.

“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops,” said the letter addressed to Columbia’s Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, reports CBS. “Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

Oz is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and vice-chair of the department of surgery at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, but he’s also a television personality with The Dr. Oz Show. And according to medical experts, only 46% of the recommendations on his show were supported by evidence.

The letter, authored by a doctor at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and co-signed by nine other doctors, ends, “Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz’s presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.”

A university spokesman emailed the doctors in response, stating: “As I am sure you understand and appreciate, Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”

Read next: Lawmakers Caution Dr. Oz on Weight-Loss Tips

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TIME Environment

North America May Have to Live With Bird Flu For a ‘Few Years,’ Says Top USDA Vet

A flock of turkeys at a Minnesota poultry farm
Bethany Hahn—AP A flock of turkeys at a Minnesota poultry farm

No quick end to the outbreak

A leading agriculture official has forecast that North America’s bird flu outbreak could last for some time.

“It’s something in North America that we may have to live with for a few years,” the USDA’s chief veterinary officer John Clifford told lawmakers in Minnesota.

The state is the area of the U.S. hardest hit by the disease, detecting bird flu on 26 turkey farms. Bird flu has also been found in Wisconsin, South Dakota and others.

A Minnesota House committee voted unanimously Thursday to allocate nearly $900,000 to help combat bird flu, which has afflicted 1.6 million turkeys in the state and become an economic blight for its almost $1 billion turkey industry.

No cases of human infections have been reported so far.

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