TIME Cancer

U.S. Smoking Rate Hits Historic Low

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And the number of people who say they smoke every day has dropped, too

Cigarette smoking among American adults has hit at an all-time low, health officials said Wednesday.

The percentage of smokers over the age of 18 dropped from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. That’s the lowest rate of smoking adults since the CDC started tracking the numbers via its Nation Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in 1965. Over the course of eight years, the number of U.S. smokers dropped from 45.1 million to 42.1 million, the report reveals.

Still, the CDC worries too many Americans still smoke, and a Nov. 13 report from the agency showed that a high number of young people still smoke, putting millions at risk for premature death.

The good news for health officials is that people seem to be cutting back, if not quitting. The number of people who smoke every day has dropped nearly 4% from 2005 to 2013, and the proportion of smokers who smoke only some days has increased. Of course, smoking less habitually still poses tremendous danger for the health.

“Though smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes, cutting back by a few cigarettes a day rather than quitting completely does not produce significant health benefits,” said Brian King, a senior scientific advisor with the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, in a statement.

Cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death among Americans, reportedly racks up $289 billion a year in medical costs and productivity loss.

Around 70% of all cigarette smokers want to kick the habit, and if a smoker quits by the time they turn 40, they can gain almost all of the 10 years of life expectancy they lose by smoking.

Americans who want to quit smoking can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free counseling and resources, or visit the CDC’s anti-smoking tips site, here.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Healthy Baking Swaps You Need to Try

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Healthier, more delicious desserts

For me, baking is pure bliss. I love whipping up brownies, cupcakes, cookies, pies, and cornbread. But as a nutritionist, I also want to feel good about my goodies, whether I’m eating them myself or sharing them with friends and family. To that end I’m always playing around with better-for-you ingredient substitutions.

Here are five swaps that will shore up your baked goods’ nutritional profile, while also enhancing the flavor and texture (I promise!)

Trade butter for avocado

I’ve heard avocado referred to as nature’s butter, and the name truly fits. I enjoy avocado’s creamy goodness whipped into smoothies, spread on whole grain toast, or as the base for a dip, but it’s also fantastic in baked good recipes. Just trade each tablespoon of butter in a recipe for half a tablespoon of avocado. This swap slashes calories, and still provides the satisfying texture you crave in a dessert, while also delivering heart-healthier, waistline-trimming monounsaturated fat (MUFAs for short), and significantly boosting the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant makeup of your treat. Just one note: you might want to use this trick in recipes with cocoa, which masks the color. I’ve used avocado in blondies and cookies, and while the texture and flavor were fantastic, there was a distinct green tint!

HEALTH.COM: 9 Healthier Dessert Recipes for Fall

Replace wheat flour with bean flour

While I tested negative for Celiac disease I do feel better when I avoid gluten. Fortunately there are a number of gluten-free flours ideal for baking that also add bonus fiber, protein, and nutrients. One of my favorites is garbanzo bean flour. A quarter cup packs 5g of fiber (versus just 1g in the same amount of all-purpose flour) and I love the nutty flavor and heartiness—but not heaviness—it adds to brownies and muffins. Substitute it in a one-to-one swap for all-purpose or wheat flour. It should work well in any baking recipe.

HEALTH.COM: 16 Easy, Guilt-Free Cookie Recipes

Use coconut oil in place of shortening

Shortening and coconut oil look similar in that both are generally white and solid at room temperature. The difference is shortening is solid because a liquid oil was hydrogenated to make it solid—a man-made process that’s far from natural. Partial hydrogenation creates trans fat, the nutritional villain that’s been linked to a host of health problems, from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to fertility challenges. Fully hydrogenated oil (aka interesterified oil), while technically trans fat free, may be even worse for your health. A Brandeis University study found that subjects who consumed products made with interesterified oil experienced a decrease in their “good” HDL cholesterol a significant rise in blood sugar—about a 20% spike in just four weeks.

Enter coconut oil, a natural plant-based fat, which also supplies antioxidants similar to those found in berries, grapes, and dark chocolate. While high in saturated fat, newer research confirms that not all saturated fats are bad for you. Coconut oil contains a type called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, which are metabolized in a unique way. This good fat has actually been shown to up “good” HDL, reduce waist circumference, and increase calorie burning. For baking, substitute it one-for-one for shortening. It’s amazing in pie crust and chocolate chip cookies!

HEALTH.COM: Good Fats, Bad Fats: How to Choose

Swap some sugar for pureed fruit

While fat used to be public enemy #1, today’s nutritional wisdom dictates including good fats (such as avocado and coconut oil) and shunning refined sugar. While removing it entirely in baking isn’t always possible, I have found that I can replace up to 50% of it with pureed fruit, such as bananas, pears, apples, mangoes, papayas, and dried dates or figs pureed with water. In addition to being bundled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is much less concentrated. For example, a quarter cup (4 tablespoons) of mashed banana contains less than 7 grams of sugar, compared to 12 grams in just one tablespoon of table sugar. The replacement ratio can be a little tricky, because some fruits are sweeter than others, but I often find that a quarter cup of pureed fruit can replace a half cup of sugar. (Note: I don’t like my baked goods overly sweet, so some bakers may prefer a one-to-one replacement.) And because fruit has a higher water content, you’ll also need to reduce the liquid in the recipe a bit, typically by a quarter cup.

HEALTH.COM: 23 Superfruits You Need Now

Upgrade chocolate chips to dark chocolate chunks

I’m always singing the praises of dark chocolate, and the research just keeps coming. A recent study found that gut bacteria ferment dark chocolate to produce substances that fight inflammation, a known trigger of aging and diseases, including obesity. Most of the research about chocolate’s benefits has been done with 70% dark, and the chocolate chips you’ll find in the baking aisle are likely 34% or less (I have seen one brand of 70% but it can be hard to find and quite expensive), so I recommend using a chopped dark chocolate bar instead. It’s easy peasy, and some research shows that chocolate’s aroma, which is released when it’s chopped, pre-sates the palate, which may naturally help you gobble less of the goodies. P.S. If you love chocolate, check out my vegan chocolate brownie recipe with a secret superstar ingredient (hint: it’s a veggie). To make them gluten-free use garbanzo bean flour in place of the whole wheat pastry flour.

HEALTH.COM: 7 Healthy Holiday Cookie Recipes

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Is Turkey Actually Good For You?

Gobble, gobble?

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

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Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

4/5 experts say yes.

As if you needed our blessing—but for the most part, experts say you can feel good about your Thanksgiving main dish. All of the bird lovers applauded turkey’s lean, filling protein. It packs the entire spectrum of B vitamins, in addition to selenium and potassium.

Two experts recommended skipping the skin, if you’re watching calories. Skin adds 35 calories to a typical 3.5-ounce serving, says Harriette R. Mogul, MD, MPH, associate professor of clinical medicine at New York Medical College. And sans skin, turkey’s low in saturated fat, says Kylene Bogden, registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic.

Don’t fall for the tryptophan myth, either. Tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleepy-time serotonin, is no more abundant in turkey than in many other meats. “In truth, it’s those carbohydrate-laden trimmings, not the turkey, that promote that all too familiar post-prandial sleepiness on Thanksgiving Day,” Mogul says. Because it’s so rich in protein, turkey stabilizes insulin levels after a meal and actually diminishes sleepiness, she says.

But serving a turkey isn’t all wishbones and three-cornered hats. “Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and to enjoy the company of loved ones, and we can do that without killing an animal,” says Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organization (and past subject of TIME’s 10 Questions). “In addition to all of the delicious traditional Thanksgiving dishes that are naturally plant-based, there are countless plant-based turkey alternatives widely available on the market today that make it easy to skip the dead bird.” Instead, Farm Sanctuary urges you to Adopt a Turkey for $30—color photo and “fun details about your new friend” included. Sponsor a whole flock for $210—the perfect holiday gift.

If you’re committed to eating the bird, however, choose wisely, says Stacia Clinton, RD, regional director of Health Care Without Harm. “Turkeys raised conventionally are routinely given antibiotics,” she says, in order to prevent the spread of turkey illness in crowded conditions. “This is causing the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria that threaten our health by reaching us through air, water, and contaminating the meat we purchase,” she says. This year, Health Care Without Harm asked clinicians to pledge to buy drug-free turkeys from local farms that don’t use antibiotics in feed or water.

Cage-free, vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free turkeys are a must, agrees Theo Weening, global meat buyer for Whole Foods Market. But please, for the sake of flavor, make sure yours is truly fresh, too, he says—it cooks faster and tastes better. “It’s a little known fact that when you buy a ‘fresh’ turkey from many conventional grocers, it can actually be from birds that have been harvested 9 months or more before Thanksgiving,” he says. “Before taking home your turkey, ask your butcher when it was harvested and where it came from.”’

Now that’s talking turkey.

TIME holiday

Deepak Chopra on Why Gratitude is Good For You

The alternative medicine advocate says practicing thankfulness can help eliminate toxic feelings

Don’t stress too much about those Thanksgiving calories, because the emotional work you do at the dinner table could be good for your spiritual health. At least that’s what physician, holistic medicine expert and bestselling author Deepak Chopra says.

Chopra, who most recently wrote The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times, says expressing gratitude on Thanksgiving isn’t just tradition—it’s also good for the body and spirit. And in a month when many Americans may be feeling worried or disappointed (about everything from the severe weather, to the unrest in Ferguson and the disturbing allegations against Bill Cosby), an effort to be more grateful can help get rid of those “toxic” feelings, if just for one night. “Anger and hostility can be inflammatory not only in your mind but in your body,” he said. “Gratitude is healing. It expands your awareness and shifts your focus from something that’s actually hurting you to something that is healing.”

But it’s not enough to just gorge yourself on sweet potatoes and bicker over the drumstick– you have to actually deliberately practice gratitude in order to reap the spiritual benefits.

“You can do a simple meditation where you quiet your mind, put your attention in your hear and just ask yourself ‘what am i grateful for?’ If you just ask the question in your own stillness, things will come up…You don’t have to go looking for the answer, you just have to ask the question and then allow any sensation, image, feeling or thought to come to you…People who practice this kind of ritual, they have a boost in their immune functioning, a shift in their hormones, it’s pretty interesting what happens even at the level of cell markers of information…This kind of thing actually has very powerful biological consequences.”

So stop stressing about how much pie you’re eating and focus instead on what’s good in your life. It’s healthy.

 

 

TIME Research

6 Breath Tests That Can Diagnose Disease

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A new study uses breath to diagnoses diabetes, but other diseases like cancer and obesity may be breath-detectable too

A new study shows that it may be possible to diagnose type 1 diabetes in kids even before the onset of severe illness.

Currently, about one in four kids with type 1 diabetes don’t know they have it until they start having life-threatening symptoms. However, a new study published in the Journal of Breath Research shows researchers might be able to diagnose the disease by detecting a chemical marker (acetone) in the breath that makes it smell sweet, but indicates a build-up of chemicals in the blood (ketones) that occurs when a person’s insulin levels are low. High levels of acetone in the breath can indicate high levels of ketones in the blood. The hope is that if proven effective, this breath test will help physicians make a diagnosis earlier.

Growing research suggests breath tests can be used to detect a variety of diseases, from diabetes to various cancers. Research is still early in some areas—and there are other factors beyond disease that can result in chemical markers in the blood and breath—but some medical institutions are already using the tests of a variety of diagnosis.

Type 1 Diabetes
In the new study, researchers collected compounds in the breath from 113 children and adolescents between the ages 7 and 18. They also measured the kids’ blood-sugar and ketone levels. They found a link between higher levels of acetone in the breath and ketones in the blood. “Our results have shown that it is realistically possible to use measurements of breath acetone to estimate blood ketones,” said study author Gus Hancock, a professor at Oxford in a statement. “We are working on the development of a small hand-held device that would … help to identify children with new diabetes.”

Colorectal Cancer
In a small study published in 2012 in the British Journal of Surgery, researchers from the the University Aldo Moro of Bari in Italy collected the breath of 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy control participants. The researchers were measuring the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the participants’ breath, with the thought being that cancer tissues and cells may release distinct chemicals. The researchers were able to identify 15 of 58 specific compounds that were correlated with colorectal cancer. Based on this, the were also able to distinguish between cancer patients and healthy patients with 75% accuracy.

Lung Cancer
In 2013, researchers from the University of Latvia used an electronic nose-like device to identify a unique chemical signature in lung cancer patients. As TIME has previously reported, there are several groups who think this process can be standardized for cancer with further research. In June, scientists at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago presented a device they think has real promise.

Obesity
There are obviously a number of ways that obesity can be diagnosed without a breath test, but a 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that obese people had unique markers in their breath, too. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center studied the breath of 792 men and women trying to detect methane. Those with higher levels of methane and hydrogen gases in their breath also tended to be heavier with a BMI around 2.4 points greater than those with normal gas levels. The hope, the researchers say, is that a test could be developed that could detect a type of bacteria that may be involved in both weight and levels of gas in the breath. There may be ways to clinically curb that bacteria growth.

Lactose Intolerance
Johns Hopkins Medicine uses breath testing to help diagnose lactose intolerance. Patients drink a lactose-heavy drink and clinicians will analyzed the breath for hydrogen, which is produced when lactose isn’t digested and is fermented by bacteria.

Fructose Intolerance
Johns Hopkins also uses breath tests to assess whether an individual is allergic or intolerant to fructose, a sugar used to sweeten some beverage and found naturally in foods like onions, artichokes, and wheat. The test is similar to a breath test for lactose intolerance. Patients will drink a cup of water with dissolved fructose and over a three hour period, clinicians will test their breath. Once again, a high presence of hydrogen can indicate that the patient is not properly digesting it.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s The Scientific Way To Make A Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Prebake the crust for pumpkin pie before filling

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The kind of fat that goes into a pie dough can totally change the chemistry of the crust—and for a supremely flaky crust, you can’t beat lard, as former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses explains in the above selection from the 2014 World Science Festival event “Biophysics? More like Pie-o-Physics!” (Yosses is something of an authority on deliciousness; earlier this year, President Obama joked that his pies were so good he must be lacing them with crack cocaine.)

But traditional Thanksgiving fare presents additional “pie-o-physics” conundrums. Pumpkin pie filling is closer on the pastry evolutionary tree to flan or custard. Baking one requires some special considerations, according to Yosses.

In pumpkin pie, “the eggs coagulate to form a silken smooth network,” Yosses told us. “The egg proteins shrink as they cook, and you need to stop the process at the right time.” The time to remove a pumpkin pie, he says, is when it is “set,” but the center should still jiggle when shaken in the oven. “This is sensitive because too little cooking and the pie will be liquid.”

To avoid overcooking his pumpkin pies, one trick Yosses likes to employ is to lower the bottom of pie dish into cold water for about 30 seconds right after taking it out of the oven (take care not to splash water or burn yourself). This will stop the protein threads from continuing to cook.

“I like a filling made with acorn squash and some sugar pumpkin, and I love trying all kinds of vegetable and ginger variations—but then it is not really a pumpkin pie,” Yosses says. He prebakes the crust for his pumpkin pie before filling. If you do the same, but don’t want an extra-crispy edge on the crust that forms during the second round in the oven, he recommends covering the edge with aluminum foil before baking.

If any foodies reading this feel guilty about going with canned pumpkin instead of the fresh stuff, take comfort in the fact that Yosses himself often reaches for a can of Libby’s pumpkin pie mix. As he says: “Why reinvent the wheel?”

This piece originally appeared on World Science Festival.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

11 Ways to Stay Slim Through the Holiday Season

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The secret to indulging without wrecking your waist: this cheat sheet

You’ve done battle with party buffets and holiday cookies before, and even though you know what to do (fill up from the veggie platter, chew slowly, yada yada), somehow the buffet always wins. Then it’s New Year’s—and you’ve packed on an extra few pounds. But that’s not going to be you in 2015. We ditched the usual tips and tapped everyone from celebrity trainers to food pros who are constantly surrounded by temptation for their best strategies to avoid gain—without sacrificing fun.

Focus on just one healthy habit

“I try not to give myself too many rules when at a party. Instead, I zero in on a single healthy practice,” says trainer Gunnar Peterson, whose clients include Khloe Kardashian and Sofia Vergara. “It can be anything from not drinking alcohol to skipping the passed appetizers or desserts. If you give yourself one thing, you’ll likely stick to it.”

Create a workout willpower playlist

Getting psyched to exercise when there’s so much fun to be had isn’t easy. So make a new playlist with this fresh spin: “Limit the total time of all the songs to the number of minutes you want to exercise,” says SoulCycle instructor Charlee Atkins. “Then make a promise to yourself that all you have to do is listen to the songs to get through your workout.”

HEALTH.COM: 50 Holiday Foods You Shouldn’t Eat

Handle a buffet like skinny people do

Slim types are more likely than their pudgy peers to scout out a buffet before grabbing a plate, finds research by Brian Wansink, PhD, published in his new book Slim by Design. They also choose a small plate, sit 16 feet farther from the buffet and are more apt to face away from the food. So grab the bread plate instead of the dinner-size one, and once you’ve filled it, sit down somewhere a good distance from the spread.

Make water work a lot harder for you

Carry your clutch or your smartphone in one hand and a glass of water in the other, advises celebrity nutritionist JJ Virgin, author of The Sugar Impact Diet: “With both your hands full, you’ll be much less likely to grab whatever sugary concoction or fattening appetizer is being passed around.” Also, make seltzer with a twist of lemon or lime your go-to drink between cocktails. It slows down consumption of alcohol and helps fill you up so you don’t eat as much later, explains Brett Hoebel, who has been a trainer on The Biggest Loser.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

Follow the three-bite rule

This one is another binge buster: “You grabbed a tart? Great. You get three bites,” Atkins says. “Use the first bite as your taste test. Is it worth another bite? If you make it to the second bite, mentally note what flavors you taste. When bite three rolls around, really savor your treat, and keep savoring it if you choose to finish it.” Truly enjoying what you eat instead of scarfing it down helps you feel more satisfied—and less likely to reach for tart number two.

Nibble like this while cooking

Sampling the cheeses as you cut and licking the frosting bowl are classic fat traps. Try this: Right before New York City food stylist Lori Powell gets busy in the kitchen, she’ll cut an apple into slices. “I snack on them as I cook. Apples have fiber and help me stay full, so I tend to nibble less.” She also tastes stuff with baby or demitasse spoons to keep servings small. Need to sample already-finished food? Take a bit, then step away from the batch. “In our job, portion control is important,” Katherine Kallinis Berman says. It’s no joke: She’s co-founder of Georgetown Cupcake and co-star of the hit series DC Cupcakes on TLC. “When trying multiple flavors,” she says, “we’ll split the cupcakes into halves or quarters so we can share.”

HEALTH.COM: 15-Minute Workout to Get Total-Body Toned

Torch calories while shopping!

Entering your credit card numbers on websites repeatedly won’t do much for calorie burn, but this will (and may help prevent overspending): “After each purchase, bang out 10 squats and 10 burpees,” suggests Adam Rosante, a trainer and founder of The People’s Bootcamp. “If you’re dress-shopping at the mall, knock out 12 triceps dips in the fitting room. You don’t need a lot of time to get a great workout.”

Have a morning-after pig-out plan

We all have moments of weakness. If you blow it, reset your body and mind ASAP so you don’t continue blowing it for weeks to come. Harley Pasternak, the star trainer behind Megan Fox and Rihanna and author of The Body Reset Diet, explains: “If I’ve had a big celebratory meal, I’ll commit to walking 10,000 steps the next day and eating protein and fiber five times a day.” The combo should contain that gnawing in your belly.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Surprising Reasons You’re Dehydrated

Sip this, skip that

A festive cocktail is an essential party favor. “Just avoid holiday drinks made with eggs, butter or heavy cream, which are like two desserts with a side of alcohol,” says Cynthia Sass, RD. “Instead, reach for simple drinks with fewer ingredients, and consciously take your time sipping rather than gulping.”

Sip: Champagne (80 calories per glass)
Mulled wine (160 calories per glass)

Skip: Cosmopolitan with candy cane (273 calories per glass)
Hot buttered rum (240 cals/11g fat per mug)

Work off dessert!

The treat:
3 milk chocolate truffles: 220 calories
Burn it off!
45-minute cardio/sculpt workout video: 214 calories

The treat:
3 Christmas cookies: 360 calories
Burn it off!
45-minute spin class: 455 calories

The treat:
3 squares of peppermint bark: 200 calories
Burn it off!
35-minute brisk walk: 208 calories

The treat:
1 slice of coffee cake: 550 calories
Burn it off!
90 minutes of skiing: 568 calories

The treat:
1 slice of pecan pie: 503 calories
Burn it off!
1 hour of ice-skating: 500 calories

HEALTH.COM: How to Lighten Up Your Favorite Holiday Foods

Little bites add up

1 tablespoon of chocolate-chip cookie dough: 90 calories

1 small handful of mixed nuts: 100 calories

2 chocolate-dipped strawberries: 74 calories

2 Swiss cheese and spinach mini quiches: 116 calories

2 1-inch macarons: 70 calories

2 goat cheese and hot pepper jelly bites: 79 calories

2 peppermint malted milk balls: 68 calories

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME

You Asked: Is Sleeping In a Cold Room Better For You?

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Here's the sweetest spot on the thermostat

Ask any insomniac about the perils of a hot pillow: When you’re trying to sleep, your brain loves the cold. Wearing a cooling cap helped insomniacs snooze almost as well as people without sleep problems, found a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and there’s also some evidence that yawning helps your brain offload heat before bedtime.

In fact, there’s lots of evidence for the cooler camp. A drop in your core temperature triggers your body’s “let’s hit the sack” systems, shows research from the Center for Chronobiology in Switzerland (and a lot of other places.) Some new research from the National Institutes of Health also suggests that sleeping in a cool room could have some calorie-burning health benefits. Healthy men who spent a month sleeping in a cool (but not cold) 66-degree room increased their stores of metabolically active brown fat, says Dr. Francesco Celi, chair of Virginia Commonwealth University’s division of endocrinology and metabolism. “Brown fat” may not sound very desirable, but it actually helps your body burn calories and dispose of excess blood sugar, he explains.

“We found that even a small reduction in bedroom temperature affects metabolism,” Celi says.

So if you want a healthy night’s sleep, crank down the thermostat, right? Unfortunately, it may not be that simple—when it comes to all of your below-the-neck parts, things aren’t so straightforward.

In Celi’s brown fat experiment, the men slept under thin sheets. What if you’re the type who likes a cozy down comforter? “Sorry, that won’t work,” Celi says, adding that some evidence points to shivering as the mechanism that brings on the increase in brown fat his team observed. His experiment didn’t keep tabs on sleep quality. So while the cold may be good for your metabolism and brown fat stores, you may be paying for those benefits with a night of fitful sleep.

That possibility is supported by research from Dr. Eus van Someren and colleagues at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. While a dip in core temperature before bedtime flips on your brain and body’s “time for bed” switches and helps you fall asleep, Someren’s research shows that keeping your skin temperature “perfectly comfortable” is important when it comes to maintaining deep, restful slumber.

Your level of “perfect comfort” is quite individual. But if you’re cold enough to be shivering, you’re not sleeping deeply, Someren says. His research shows that older adults in particular may benefit from warmer skin temperatures during sleep. In fact, both his work and more research from France suggest skin temps in the range of 90 degrees (!) may be optimal.

If that sounds nuts to you, consider the fact that thin pajamas, plus a sheet and blanket, could crank up your skin temperature to that 90-degree range—even if your room of slumber is only 65 degrees, Someren says. On the other hand, if your bedroom is too chilly or your blankets aren’t thick enough, blood vessels in your skin can narrow, locking in heat and upping your core temperature to a point that your sleep is disturbed, he explains.

Add in a sleeping partner, and things get even more complex; while you may yearn for a heavy down comforter, your spouse might prefer a thin sheet. “Temperature regulation is a tricky thing,” Someren says.

That’s a lot of bedroom science, but here’s the bottom line: keeping your head nice and cool is conducive to good sleep. To achieve that, set your thermostat somewhere around 65 degrees, research suggests. And layer up until you feel the Sandman creep closer.

TIME ebola

Ebola Isolation Is ‘Pretty Much Vacation’ for U.S. Service Members Back From West Africa

Langley Transit Center in a pre-existing expeditionary training center, for military personnel returning from Ebola missions in West Africa, at Langley Air Force Base Va. on Nov. 4, 2014.
Langley Transit Center in a pre-existing expeditionary training center, for military personnel returning from Ebola missions in West Africa, at Langley Air Force Base Va. on Nov. 4, 2014. Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland—AP

"It's Wi-Fi everywhere, flat screens everywhere, big gym to either lift or run"

Ebola quarantine for health care workers has been likened to prison, but isolation for military personnel appears to be a much more relaxed experience.

American service members returning from missions in West Africa are required by the Department of Defense to undergo precautionary, 21-day quarantines in one of five designated U.S. bases, with at least one center providing everything from cafeterias to entertainment centers, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, there are 21 small buildings housing about 90 service members, the first batch to return from the roughly 1,800 troops deployed to the region. There, service members described having access to video games and a library, in addition to being able to select what they want to eat for each meal.

“All I can say about this camp, Langley, it’s pretty much vacation. It’s Wi-Fi everywhere, flat screens everywhere, big gym to either lift or run. There’s an asphalt road kind of running around the perimeter that you can work out on,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Knifley. “This isn’t bad at all.”

Returning service members undergo the twice daily temperature measurements, and there have been no reported infections yet. Despite the perks, the service members believe it’s also their experiences in handling tough circumstances that help them stay positive.

“Most of us have been in far worse conditions than this, and it’s only 21 days,” said Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Chaperon, who is among those isolated on the base. “You can stand on your head for three weeks if you’ve got to.”

[AP]

TIME ebola

Here’s How the Ebola Vaccine Trial Is Doing

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Kallista Images—Getty Images/Kallista Images

University of Maryland scientists are figuring out what doses of the Ebola vaccine are effective and still safe

Scientists are scurrying to get their Ebola vaccines through the necessary safety trials before they can be used widely. That includes the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which recently kicked off the latest step in their research: figuring out the appropriate dosing for the vaccine that’s both effective and safe.

University of Maryland is one of a handful of institutions involved in the testing of an experimental but promising vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The hope is that the vaccine will pass through early trials needed by end of December so that the World Health Organization (WHO) and a panel of outside experts can decide whether to move on to a large efficacy trial, which would mean vaccinating a lot of people in West Africa to see how well it works.

The vaccine has already made it through safety trials conducted by the NIH, as well as trials at the University of Oxford and at Emory University. In the current trial, researchers at Maryland vaccinated 10 volunteers on Nov. 10th and 10 volunteers on Nov. 17th. The university has also vaccinated 80 people in Mali. The volunteers’ blood will be monitored for a year, but researchers are most interested in when the participants hit the 28-days post-vaccination mark. That’s when the body should be at its peak antibody response.

“In an ideal world, if we were vaccinating people and there wasn’t an epidemic we would give them two vaccines for full coverage, but since this is an outbreak we want one dose that can protect people,” says principle investigator Dr. Kirsten Lyke. She says they hope that the higher-dose vaccine will be more durable so the effect will last longer. It might not be the best vaccine for long-term protection, but Lyke says a durable single dose will be the best to “jump in” to the outbreak.

Once the university has its data, it will plug its findings into a database that holds information from all the organizations participating in the vaccine trials. Then, the researchers can compare the participants’ overall immune response to those of monkeys.

“The assumption is that if humans make the same quality and amount of immune response as the monkeys, it’s likely that the vaccine [would provide] protection among humans as well,” says Dr. James Campbell, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland Center for Vaccine Development also working on the vaccine. An efficacy trial would be needed to conclude that for sure.

People who are given the vaccine stand no chance of actually getting Ebola from the drug. The vaccine uses an adenovirus (in this case, a type of virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees) with a gene removed so the virus can no longer multiply. In that gene’s place, scientists put in a single gene from Ebola that expresses a protein that sits on the surface of the virus. It looks like what the immune system would see if a person was actually infected by Ebola, but it doesn’t cause any symptoms. The goal is to trick the immune system into responding, thereby creating antibodies that will protect a person from the actual disease.

Most of the volunteers for the trial have come from the University of Maryland campus, like Andrea Buchwald, a graduate student at the university studying epidemiology. “It seemed like a neat way to contribute to the science and public health effort,” she says.

It’s still early, but Lyke says so far there have been no serious safety concerns. There have been some side effects—Buchwald says she had a fever that “felt really strange, not like a natural fever,” she says, but most side effects have gone away quickly.

As the institution gathers data, it hopes it will meet its end of December deadline to bring the vaccine to the WHO for consideration. The United Nations has already announced that it will not meet it’s Dec. 1 deadline containing the outbreak. A vaccine may ultimately be the one solution to end the outbreak.

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