TIME Research

Feeling Sad Turns Your World Gray—Literally

blue paint samples
Rick Eglinton / Toronto Star—Getty Images Feeling blue might make a sad person see blue differently.

"Feeling blue" and "seeing red" might be more literal than we think, suggests a new study about color

The world seems dreary, gloomy and gray when you’re feeling blue. In fact, being down in the dumps might even affect how you perceive the color blue.

A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science shows a direct connection between a person’s ability to perceive color and their emotions.

“Color is such an important part of our experience,” says lead author Christopher Thorstenson, a psychologist at the University of Rochester. There’s a reason, he says, that common descriptive phrases of the world include “colorless,” “gray,” and “feeling blue” by sad people, and “bright” and “colorful” by happier folks.

MORE: This May Be Why You’re Seeing The Dress As White and Gold

Psychologists have long known that emotions have a direct influence on what is called “low-level visual processes,” or simple perceptions of space and form. That’s because your visual processes require some chemical input from your brain that might affect how you process what you see. Sadness decreases arousal, for example, which in turn limits the amount of light entering the retina and reduces your visual acumen. A gloomy mood lowers dopamine, which may impair neutrotransmitters in the retina. And depression has been linked to a deficit in the ability to differentiate colors, meaning the world might be viewed as a fuzzier, less vivid place for some people feeling sad.

In the experiment, the researchers randomly assigned people to one of two groups. Those who were assigned “sadness” watched a sad film clip: a particularly heart-wrenching scene from The Lion King. Those in the “amusement” group were shown a standup skit. Everyone was then asked to look at red, yellow, green and blue patches that had been desaturated of color and muted to gray. “Some of the patches are pretty difficult [to discern],” Thorstenson admits, saying that it often takes a bit of intent staring to figure out their shade. People were scored on how accurate their color perception was, and they then completed an emotional evaluation. Another part of the study had people watch a neutral desktop screensaver and perform the same tasks.

The result: sad people had a hard time differentiating between shades along the blue-yellow color axis. Intriguingly, however, people who were sad did not have problems seeing colors in the red-green spectrum—possibly because of an evolutionary need to see red as an anger response, Thorstenson speculates. (“Seeing red”, therefore, might also be a more literal phrase than we once thought.)

The fact that Thorstenson and his team only saw differences in color perception along the blue-yellow axis means that this isn’t just a fluke, he explains. Had sadness simply reduced chemical arousal or engagement, the results would probably have indicated that color perception across all spectrums were affected, but that wasn’t the case. It also highlights the possible importance of dopamine in sight, something researchers are hoping to focus on more in the future. “We know dopamine is important in mood disorders like depression and ADHD, but there might be something going on with how dopamine affects how we see colors, too,” Thorstenson says.

“How we feel can really influence how we see the world around us,” he says.

TIME CVS

CVS Says Its Ban on Tobacco Products Has Already Improved Public Health

CVS Sells Disposable Camcorders
Tim Boyle—Getty Images

That was fast

Last year, CVS Health announced that it was banning tobacco products from all of its stores. The decision was considered a bold statement since tobacco garnered the drug store some $2 billion in sales each year.

On Thursday, CVS made another announcement aimed at proving that the tobacco prohibition was more than just corporate strategy. It released a study that suggests that the company’s tobacco ban may actually be improving public health.

A report by CVS Research Institute examined purchases of cigarette packs at drug, food, big box, dollar, convenience, and gas station retailers in the eight months after the company stopped selling tobacco products. CVS said the results show that there has been “an additional 1% reduction in cigarette pack sales across all retailers in states where CVS had a 15% or greater share of the retail pharmacy market, compared to states with no CVS/pharmacy stores.”

Here are a few other results:

Over the same eight-month period, the average smoker in those states purchased five fewer cigarette packs and, in total, approximately 95 million fewer packs were sold.

There was a 4% increase in nicotine patch purchases in those same states during the period immediately following the end of tobacco sales, indicating that there was also a positive effect on attempts to quit smoking.

CVS Health’s Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan said in the release that those stats may be a result of cigarettes being harder to find: “We know that more than two-thirds of smokers want to quit—and that half of smokers try to quit each year. We also know that cigarette purchases are often spontaneous. And so we reasoned that removing a convenient location to buy cigarettes could decrease overall tobacco use.”

CVS’s findings have at least one critic. Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, told USA Today that CVS sold only a small percentage of the nation’s cigarettes to start with. “[T]he bold claim that its decision to stop selling cigarettes actually got a significant number of smokers to just buy the mostly ineffective nicotine patches and quit smoking, only illustrates how little the company knows about the difficulty of quitting,” he said.

CVS’s decision to stop selling tobacco was part of a larger effort to be a bigger player in the healthcare industry. Since its announcement of the ban in February 2014, CVS changed its name from CVS Caremark to CVS Health and bought Omnicare for $10.4 billion to get a bigger foothold in senior citizens’ care.

But the ban hasn’t been without financial consequences on the company’s bottom line. Last month, the company blamed a drop in 8% drop in quarterly same store sales on the ban. It said it’s planning to recoup those sales by improving its food and beauty sections. And in June CVS bought Target’s nearly 1,700 pharmacies for $1.9 billion. It’s also opening more of its MinuteClinic walk-in health clinics.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Why You Shouldn’t Skip a Workout

TIME.com stock photos Weight Loss Health Exercise Weights
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Think of exercise as an investment in yourself

MIMI is a Time Inc. property.

Your favorite workout pants are dirty in the hamper, your iPod is on 3%, and your bestie just texted asking you to join her at happy hour. We all have those days where getting to your workout feels more difficult than the actual exercise. So we reached out to Franci Cohen, a board certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and the creator of a cardio resistance workout, to get the scoop on why you should listen to that little voice in your head telling you to get out there and sweat.

You Have A Cold

Running on the treadmill with a runny nose isn’t ideal but, it’s possible a good workout session could help you get rid of your cold. “Working out when you have a cold can actually be beneficial. It can boost immunity, and allow you to rid yourself of the invading bug a lot faster by flushing it out of the body by increased perspiration, respiration, and urination,” says Cohen.

You Missed Your Workout Class

Missing Zumba class may feel like grounds to head home and hop in bed early, but use this opportunity to try something new. Catch the late cycling class or try mixing up your own workout routine. Still sad you missed Zumba? Turn on Spotify’s Zumba playlist (yes, it exists) and create your own routine.

Your iPod Is Dead / You Forgot Your Headphones

Music can be a great exercise buddy, but forgetting your headphones isn’t a sign to go home. Try thinking of all the reasons why you started this journey and how far you’ve come. Instead of throwing in the towel (literally and figuratively), use this time to clear your mind and focus on each muscle you are working on.

You Can’t Find the Time

A wise person once said, “You and Beyoncé both have the same 24 hours. So no excuses.” Okay, so maybe you don’t have the access to trainers, dieticians, and specialty fitness routines like Beyoncé, but think of exercise as an investment in yourself. Some alone time to relieve stress and clear your head goes a long way.

Cohen suggests getting a buddy to help you fight through the days when you’re “just not feeling it.” Of course, be mindful and listen to your body. If you have a fever or your body feels achy, you may want to skip your workout and give your body time to rest. After all, it’s all about living and feeling better.

This article originally appeared on MIMI.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Nutritional Yeast?

5/5 experts say yes.

Nutritional yeast
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

You’ve seen nutritional yeast, affectionately known as nooch (really), in health food stores and vegan eateries. (Or maybe you have no clue what the heck we’re talking about, in which case, click here). But all five experts we talked to give nooch the thumbs up.

First, what is it? Nutritional yeast is grown on sugar cane or sugar beet molasses. “After growing the yeast, it is completely pasteurized and deactivated so it is quite safe and won’t give rise to yeast overgrowth in someone who eats it,” says Michael Donaldson, PhD, a researcher who works for the plant-based Hallelujah Diet and has studied nutritional yeast. It’s a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids that our bodies can’t alone produce. A popular brand has 3 grams of protein per one-tablespoon serving, plus 1 gram of fiber. Buy it fortified. and you’ll get zinc, selenium and B vitamins, too.

MORE: FDA Says Vegan Mayonnaise Can’t Be Called Mayo

People are really crazy for the stuff because of its flavor: nutty, savory, meaty, and somehow cheesy. “It works well as a substitute for cheese in vegan diets,” says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. Some of the most popular uses for nutritional yeast include shaking it on popcorn or stirring it into noodles for a vegan mac-and-cheese. If you’re trying to imagine a flavor correlate, nutritional yeast is similar to—but much milder than— the Australian staple Vegemite.

MORE: Ethical Vegans Are More Likely To Stick With It Than Health Vegans

It gets a planet-friendly thumbs up, too. “Yeast is a more sustainable and ethical source of protein than meat,” says Simon Fellous, an evolutionary biologist at the French Institute for Agronomic Research who studies the effect of yeast on flies.

But remember, “it can never replace a real food,” says Kristel Hälvin, PhD, a researcher at the Competence Center of Food and Fermentation Technologies in Estonia who has studied the vitamins in nutritional yeast. “But it can add extra nutritional value and taste to your meals.”

We’ll give the final word to Dana Davis, PhD, one of the editors of the journal Yeast: “I am happy to give a thumbs up for eating nutritional yeast, which is basically just baker’s or brewer’s yeast that has been killed and the nutrients isolated,” he says.

As a home brewer, I’ll stick to getting these nutrients from my beer, though.”

Read next: Should I Eat Falafel?

TIME tobacco

Has CVS’s Cigarette Ban Reduced Smoking?

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Getty Images

Looking at the impact of the tobacco ban one year later

It’s been one year since CVS stopped selling tobacco in its stores, and the company says the move has resulted in a decline in cigarette purchases over the last year.

The data is preliminary—it’s only been one year—and it deserves to be looked at with plenty of caveats.

By analyzing cigarette pack purchases at a wide variety of seller locations like drug stores, gas stations, and convenience and dollar stores during the eight months following CVS’ tobacco ban, the CVS Research Institute found a 1% drop in cigarette pack sales in the 13 states that have a CVS pharmacy market share of 15% or more.

“One percent may not sound like much but it’s a very substantial amount when you consider the mortality and morbidity associated with tobacco,” says Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer of CVS Health.

CVS did not stop selling nicotine replacement products, however; in the months following the cigarette ban, they noted a 4% increase in nicotine patch purchases in those same 13 states.

Stanton Glantz, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, says he gives CVS’s progress report a ‘B.’ “My one criticism is that they were not the only thing happening. If you look across these states, there were tax increases for cigarettes going on, some of the states had anti-smoking programs, there was less smoking in movies. CVS doesn’t account for those [other factors],” he says.

Glantz does think it’s fair to say CVS’ actions helped change the social environment around smoking. “You had a major corporation that was making money selling cigarettes saying, ‘We are not going to do this anymore because it’s the wrong thing to do,'” says Glantz. And that—more than simply stopping to sell cigarettes—”was the actual intervention,” Glantz adds. “It was a very large social message that was sent.”

The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that there are around 42 million adult smokers in the U.S. and smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death. More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking and over four in 10 adult cigarette smokers say they attempted to quit in the last year.

TIME Research

College Kids Are Smoking Pot Over Cigarettes, Study Says

Medical marijuana on table
Getty Images

It appears students view marijuana as less dangerous than they did in the past

Daily marijuana use has surpassed daily cigarette use for the first time among college students, a new study shows.

Surveys conducted as part of the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study revealed that marijuana use among college students is on the rise, with daily or near-daily use being reported by 5.9 percent of students in 2014. That’s the highest rate since 1980, the study authors report. The researchers report that one in every 17 college students is smoking marijuana daily or nearly every day.

“It’s clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation’s college students,” said study author Lloyd Johnston, a researcher at University of Michigan in a statement. “And this largely parallels an increase we have been seeing among high school seniors.”

Why? The researchers say that the increase could be due to the fact that using marijuana is viewed as less dangerous to young people. Fifty-five percent of young people ages 19 to 22 thought marijuana was dangerous in 2006, but only 35% thought so in 2014.

 

TIME HIV/AIDS

HIV Prevention Drug Appears to Work in First Real-World Test

PrEP HIV prevention drug
PrEP REP Project Animation of cells responding to the PrEP HIV prevention drug.

Researchers evaluated more than 650 people who used the drug PrEP

A drug designed to prevent people who are at risk of HIV from being infected is showing promise: a new real-world study found that those who took the drug stayed HIV-free. The finding adds to growing evidence the drug, PrEP, serves as an effective method of curbing the spread of the HIV virus.

For the study, the first to look at PrEP outside of a clinical setting, researchers evaluated more than 650 people who began the drug during a 32-month period. Nearly all of the participants were men who have sex with men. Users were more likely than non-users to report that they had multiple sex partners. During the study, participants developed a number of different sexually transmitted diseases but remained free of HIV.

The Food and Drug Administration approved PrEP for use in 2012 and it has since been recommended to groups that engage in sexual practices that place them at increased risk of HIV. The drug can reduce risk of HIV infection by 92% if taken properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HIV infection rates in the U.S. have persisted in recent years despite campaigns to raise awareness and encourage condom use.

TIME medicine

FDA Warns Powdered Caffeine Is Dangerous

caffeine-powder
Center for Science in the Public Interest

One teaspoon of the powder has around the same caffeine content as 28 cups of coffee

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to five pure powdered caffeine distributors arguing the products are dangerous. The agency said it did so to prevent further deaths from powdered caffeine.

In 2014, two young men who were otherwise healthy died after consuming powdered caffeine. The FDA says it sent the companies the warning letters because “these products are dangerous and present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury to consumers,” the agency wrote in a statement.

According to the FDA, there’s a very small difference between a safe amount of pure powdered caffeine and a toxic amount, and it’s “nearly impossible” to measure safe amounts accurately using normal measuring tools. One teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine equals the same amount of caffeine in 28 cups of coffee, so it’s not possible to use a teaspoon to measure out a standard caffeine serving, the FDA says.

The five companies the FDA warned are SPN, LLC (Smartpowders), Purebulk, Inc., Kreativ Health Inc. (Natural Food Supplements), Hard Eight Nutrition, LLC and Bridge City Bulk. Bridge City Bulk founder Jeffrey Stratton told the New York Times that the company “immediately stopped selling the material” and had not had any complaints.

The federal agency says it is continuing to monitor the powdered caffeine product market and if it finds violations, it will take action, including seizing the product or preventing producers from manufacturing it.

Read next: 10 Foods That May Trigger a Migraine

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

How Soda Affects Kids’ Cholesterol Levels

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Jack Andersen—Getty Images

A new study pinpoints exactly how much drinking sugared beverages can affect cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease and diabetes

The research is mounting that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked with health problems in adults, including type-2 diabetes, heart conditions and obesity. Now, in a study published in Journal of Nutrition, Maria Van Rompay, an instructor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, decided to focus on children 8 to 15—specifically the effect soda had on their cholesterol.

She and her colleagues took advantage of a large study involving nearly 700 children who answered questions about what they ate. They also had blood tests done at the start of the study and again a year later. Van Rompay and her team were particularly interested in seeing how the children’s soda intake was linked to their cholesterol levels, since previous studies suggested a connection between the carbohydrates found in sugars and fat levels such as cholesterol and triglycerides.

MORE: 7 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Soda

Children consuming more sugared drinks had higher levels of triglycerides, which are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, and when Van Rompay looked at children who changed the amount of sugared drinks they consumed over the year, she found that those who drank one serving less on average from the start to the end of the study showed higher levels of HDL, the good cholesterol that can protect against heart problems.

MORE: How Coke Is Subtly Blaming You for Obesity

That suggests the beverages do have an effect on the body, particularly on the balance between the amount of fat that is stored and the amount used as energy. “Dietary intake is one of the modifiable factors that can be targeted in helping to prevent disease,” she says. “Even a small change in one serving per week can be enough to have an effect on HDL,” she says. “So educating children about sugar-sweetened beverages and changing the amount they drink is something that feels manageable and can be done to improve the health status of our children.”

MORE: The Trouble With Sugar Free Kids

Van Rompay suspects that the reason she didn’t see differences in cholesterol levels when simply comparing children who drank more or less sugared drinks may have to do with differences in their starting levels of HDL. Many factors can affect HDL and LDL, of which diet is only one. Other contributors, such as genetics and ethnic backgrounds, may also play a role. In her multi-ethnic study, those with higher cholesterol levels and those with lower levels at the start may have had different cholesterol levels, but these effects might have canceled each other out, leaving little difference in the final outcome. “More research in racially and ethnically diverse samples to investigate sugar-sweetened beverages and blood lipids is needed,” she says.

MORE: Should I Drink Diet Soda?

TIME toxins

People Are Still Exposed To the Teflon Chemical At Unsafe Levels, Group Says

teflon nonstick pan
Getty Images

An EWG report finds that chemicals, already shown to disrupt functioning of the endocrine system, are still present in cookware products

It’s been more than a decade since investigations revealed that Teflon contained a consumer chemical called PFOA that was linked to birth defects, heart disease and other health issues, but the safety of the chemical is far from settled. PFOA is dangerous at concentrations far lower than previously recognized, according to a recent investigation.

The investigation, conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), found that exposure to PFOA is harmful at levels 1,300 times lower than previously recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Tests found PFOA at unsafe concentrations in 27 states affecting more than 6 million people, according to the EWG.

“It may not be an absolute like asbestos or lead, which we know there is no safe level of exposure, but it’s very close,” says Bill Walker, author of the EWG report on the investigation. “It appears that even the smallest levels we’re able to measure have harmful health effects.”

The controversy over PFOA, formally known as perfluorooctanoic acid, stretches back decades. DuPont and 3M had been using the chemical to make consumer products resistant to liquids when an investigation tied to a lawsuit revealed the product’s dangerous effects on human health. PFOA disrupts normal functioning of the endocrine system and has been linked to birth defects and cancer.

In the aftermath of the lawsuit, the EPA warned about potential dangers of PFOA and PFOS, a related chemical, in an advisory. Both Dupont and 3M stopped using PFOA and PFOS, but the chemicals lingered in rivers and and waterways (as well as in human bodies). The EWG says more than 6.5 million people are served by water systems still contaminated with unsafe levels of the chemicals.

Harvard School of Public Health professor Philippe Grandjean, who has led some of the most important research on these chemicals in recent years, says that PFOA and PFOS still pose a threat to human health. “You can discuss these numbers, but we’re on the same page,” he says of the EWG figures. “The EPA limit is way too high.”

In a recent study, Grandjean found that breastfeeding passes a related chemical to babies. The chemical builds up in babies with each month after birth and will likely stay in the body for years, the study found. “It’s an absurd situation,” he says. “We think that breastfeeding is the best way for a child to start post-natal life, but we now must tell women to worry about chemicals they’ve never heard about.”

In the report, EWG also called on consumer product manufacturers to stop using chemicals in the same family as PFOA and PFOS, known as PFCs. Though slightly different in structure, these chemicals serve the same function in consumer productions, they said, and preliminary research has shown they likely also have the same detrimental effects on the human body.

In the U.S., chemicals are regulated under a standard that might be called “innocent until proven guilty,” says New York University professor Leonardo Trasande, who wasn’t involved in the study but researches people’s exposure to chemicals. Manufacturers can use them until problems arise rather than need to prove they are safe. Other chemicals, like BPA, have been replaced due to negative health effects only for researchers to discover that substitute chemicals cause the same problems. Legislation to change the approach to regulation is stalled in U.S. Congress.

“Are we going to find out in 50 years or in less time that these alternatives, the new generation of PFCs, are just as dangerous?” Walker asks. “It just seems like just a real egregious failure of the law.”

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