TIME Diet/Nutrition

A New Taste Has Been Added to the Human Palate

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Say hello to the taste of pure fat

We classify food as sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami, but a new paper published in the journal Chemical Senses argues that we’re missing another basic taste: fatty.

It’s called oleogustus, and it’s the unique taste of fat, says Richard D. Mattes, distinguished professor of nutrition science at Purdue University and one of the authors of the study. “I can’t use any words that exist, so we’re forced to make it up,” Mattes says. (The Latin translation of oily or fatty taste is “oleogustus.”)

There’s no one definition for what makes something a basic taste, but Mattes thinks of it as meeting several categories: the stimulus should have a unique structure, it should bind or interact with a unique receptor, it should be carried by the taste nerves to the central nervous system where taste information is decoded, and it should have a particular function.

Mattes and his colleagues wanted to see if a group of people classified “fatty” as a taste that is unique from the basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami. They fed people a series of solutions, plugged their noses to control for odor and asked them to sort them into similar or dissimilar taste categories.

People indeed separated fatty acids into a tight group; when they were given samples of bitter, umami and fatty tastes, they sorted fatty acids in a league of their own, even though there isn’t currently an accepted category or name for the taste.

“It’s been very difficult to figure out if people really view this as unique sensation, because we have no word for it,” Mattes says. “It’s pretty strong evidence that they are, in fact, perceptually distinct.”

But lest you associate the taste category with a delicious slice of greasy pizza, Mattes has some bad news. “Fatty acid taste is awful,” he says. “We think it’s more of a warning system.” We might be able to distinguish a fatty taste, but it’s not the type of fatty taste we know and love. The creaminess and viscosity we associate with fatty foods is largely due to triglycerides: a molecule with three fatty acids that isn’t a taste stimulus, but rather a mouthfeel, Mattes says. Triglycerides also deliver fat-soluble flavor compounds, Mattes says, but that flavor isn’t the true taste of fat.

To get a sense of what that tastes like, imagine heating your fryer for a good long time and tasting the food you cook in it, Mattes suggests. It won’t be pleasant, and you certainly won’t want to eat it. “The food industry has known about this for a very long time, and they go to great efforts to keep concentrations of these fatty acids below detection thresholds, because if you can detect them you’re likely not to eat the food,” he says. But in small concentrations below detection levels, the taste can be pleasant—just as we enjoy the bitterness of wine, chocolate and coffee, Mattes says.

Classifying a new taste could help us understand our food better, Mattes says. “If you understand the workings of a sensory system, you can use them for purpose,” he says. “Whether that’s to improve the quality of the food supply, the safety of the food supply, reduction of cardiovascular disease, treat taste disorders, there are any number of possibilities here.”

TIME MERS

There May Have Been a Major Breakthrough in MERS Treatment

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Researchers in Hong Kong have cured infected monkeys of MERS using existing drugs

Two existing and widely available drugs may prove to be effective treatments for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), new research published by the University of Hong Kong suggests.

According to the South China Morning Post, the medicines—lopinavir with ritonavir and a type of interferon—were tested on marmosets, small monkeys that a 2014 U.S. study concluded would be the best subject for MERS trials because of the way their reactions to the virus mimics human illness. The drugs, currently used to treat HIV and sclerosis, were found to be effective in curing MERS-infected marmosets.

The research is the first of its kind in the world.

“We would recommend doctors to start using both drugs immediately to treat MERS patients if they are critical,” said Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, one of the researchers, told SCMP. “The evidence in this study is quite strong in proving the effectiveness of these two drugs.”

Currently, there is no known cure for MERS.

Meanwhile, South Korea, which struggled with a MERS outbreak in May and June, has not reported any new MERS cases for 23 days and no deaths for more than two weeks. The country declared a “de-facto end” to its outbreak on July 28, although a spokesman for the World Health Organization told the BBC it would not declare an official end to the country’s outbreak until 28 days had passed with no new infections—twice the disease’s incubation period.

[SCMP]

TIME Infectious Disease

There Might Be Poop on Your Cilantro

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The FDA has banned some Mexican imports

Guacamole fans, beware: the FDA has banned the import of some fresh cilantro from Mexico after evidence showed the crop could be tainted with human feces.

Several farms in Puebla were linked to outbreaks of stomach illness in 2013 and 2014 in the U.S., the Associated Press reports. The FDA believes they may also have caused more recent outbreaks due to the presence of the cyclospora parasite.

Investigators found that some farms had no toilets for employees, and discovered feces and toilet paper in the fields. The resulting ban will impact shipments from April through August in the coming years unless farms in the region can show that conditions have improved.

 

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Premature Babies Are More Likely to Develop This Personality Type

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Photodisc—Getty Images

Whether babies are born early can affect the personality traits they develop later, suggests the latest research

How gregarious you are, whether you tend to be anxious all the time and how responsible you are for your own actions certainly depend on a myriad of factors. Genetics, your home and school environment during childhood, as well as early life experiences, all contribute to the type of person you become.

But in a study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood (Fetal & Neonatal Edition), scientists in the UK report that there may be another more surprising contributor to your personality traits—whether you were born prematurely.

The researchers studied a group of 200 people who were either born when they were less than 32 weeks old or with very low birth weight, both of which have been linked to other health issues in previous studies. These 200 people were compared on personality traits to 197 others born to term and of normal birth weight when all of the people in the study were 26 years old. The group of people born early or of low birth weight were more likely than the controls to fit into what the authors call a socially withdrawn personality; these people scored higher on traits of introversion, neuroticism and autistic features, while scoring lower on risk taking and agreeableness.

MORE: Some Premature Babies Can Survive After Only 22 Weeks, Study Says

All told, premature birth accounted for about 11% of the personality assessment, the researchers say. That’s just a fraction of the different experiences that make up personality, but it’s possible that early birth can set children up for certain traits for a number of different reasons. Biologically, it’s possible that the premature birth exposes infants to a potentially traumatic environment in a neonatal intensive care unit that’s very different from the nurturing, calm experience of babies born to term who are immediately allowed to bond both physically and emotionally with their parents. Second, premature babies may be exposed to certain treatments, including corticosteroids, that can change their metabolic and hormonal development, priming them to be more sensitive to stress and anxiety, for example. And concerned parents of premature infants may tend to be over-protective of their children throughout childhood, contributing to the child’s tendency to avoid risk and worry more.

MORE: Extremely Premature Babies Face Developmental Issues, Study Says

While personality can’t be traced to one particular experience or event, the scientists suggest that prematurity should be investigated further as a potentially important aspect of personality development. “Defining a general personality profile and understanding its aetiology are important because this higher order personality factor may help to partly explain the social difficulties [prematurely born] individuals experience in adult roles, such as in peer and partner relationships and career,” the authors write.

TIME cyberattacks

Planned Parenthood Targeted by Hackers

"We are taking every measure possible to mitigate these criminal efforts"

Planned Parenthood says it has informed the FBI and Department of Justice of a malicious attack on its servers by activist hackers who are threatening to leak the personal data of its staff.

The activists have “called on the world’s most sophisticated hackers to assist them in breaching our systems and threatening the privacy and safety of our staff members,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president at PPFA.

The hack, originally reported by the Daily Dot, appears to have been motivated by anti-abortion sentiment. “Trying to mold an atrocious monstrosity into socially acceptable behaviors is repulsive,” one of the supposed hackers told the website. “Obviously what [Planned Parenthood] does is a very ominous practice. It’ll be interesting to see what surfaces when [Planned Parenthood] is stripped naked and exposed to the public.”

Laguens called the hackersextremists who oppose Planned Parenthood’s mission and services” and said Planned Parenthood was “working with top leaders in this field to manage these attacks.”

The reported breach comes as the organization defends itself against videos from an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has said the videos are edited and are part of a “smear campaign.”

TIME

Big Soda Sues San Francisco Over Beverage Warnings

<> on June 10, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan—2015 Getty Images Bottles of soda are displayed in a cooler at a convenience store on June 10, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

The soda industry’s largest trade body is suing the city of San Francisco over rules that would require mandatory warning labels on soda advertisements and ban their display on city property.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Beverage Association on Friday, claims the regulations due to come into force July 2016 are unconstitutional. The city, the complaint said, “is trying to ensure that there is no free marketplace of ideas, but instead only a government-imposed, one-sided public ‘dialogue’ on the topic—in violation of the First Amendment.”

The legislation was passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in June and stands among the strongest laws in the country relating to sugary beverages. The label, which must be affixed to all soda advertisements, would read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

The plaintiffs in the complaint say forcing signs to carry that label “violates core First Amendment principles.”

Other parties to the suit also include the California Retailers Association and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association.

TIME Research

Here’s How Sexy Advertising Backfires

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Tina Potocki / Getty Images Sex and violence don't necessarily help sales, a new study shows.

Researchers say that titillating content can, in fact, hurt sales‚ not help them

The first nude print ad was published in 1936 for Woodbury Soap. It featured an undressed woman lazily lying at the beach, her arm positioned at just the right angle to shield her breasts from view. It followed the old advertising adage that sex sells.

But that no longer holds true, according to a new study released by the Psychological Bulletin. Brad Bushman, a communications professor at Ohio State University and a co-author of the study, says it’s not that sex and violence don’t grab our attention—of course they do. In fact, paying attention to such things are evolutionary responses that are necessary for survival (being attuned to safety threats prepares people to protect themselves; finding opportunities for mating keep the species going).

But just because they grab our eye doesn’t mean the ad translates into sales.

“[A]dvertisers think sex and violence sell, so they buy advertising time during sexual and violent programs, and in turn producers continue to create sexual and violent programs that attract advertising revenue,” the authors write. But when a person is being shown a product—say, laundry detergent—with a sexy backdrop, it’s not the detergent that’s capturing the attention so much as the action onscreen. Sex is distracting, Bushman says. “We have a limited capacity to pay attention to cues.”

Bushman and his co-author, Robert Lull, found 1,869 articles in two databases that had historically studied consumer response to sex and violence. Researchers weeded out studies that didn’t directly address consumer response, didn’t have a control group, and didn’t look explicitly at the effects of sex and/or violence on the consumer.

“In the best case scenario, sex and violence doesn’t work,” Bushman told TIME. “For advertisers, it can actually backfire, and people will be less likely to remember your [product]. They might report being less likely to buy your product if the content of your program is violent or sexual.”

No surprise, some demographics respond differently to sexy or violent ads. Women tend to remember products from provocative ads; men tend to be distracted by sex or violence and not remember the product. Older participants were turned off by violence and sex; younger consumers were more likely to respond to it.

Still, taken together, the researchers conclude this: “Brands advertised in violent contexts will be remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media.”

 

TIME Research

That Makeup Ad Is Probably Lying to You

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New study reveals how many ads for cosmetics are inaccurate or false

Only 18% of all claims made in commercials for cosmetics are generally trustworthy, according to new research released Monday.

Cosmetics firms often use advertising verbiage like “clinically proven” or “inspired by groundbreaking DNA research.” But researchers combed through these claims and found that the majority were vague and many are outright lies, according to a new study published in the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing.

The researchers assessed 289 cosmetic ads, including ads for products like make-up, skincare and fragrance, featured in magazines like Vogue and Marie Claire. They then separated the various claims into different categories, including environmental claims, endorsement claims and scientific claims. The researchers rated them as “acceptable,” “vague,” “omission” or “outright lie.”

The study authors conclude that claims of “well-being and happiness” are usually not substantiated. “Those who back the claims with scientific evidence and consumer testing often use questionable methodologies for their substantiation,” the authors wrote.

TIME mental health

Shirtless Marines March in ‘Silkies’ to Raise Suicide Awareness

Each day, 22 former servicemembers commit suicide

A group of Marines is marching 22 kilometers, or about 13.5 miles, wearing nothing but short shorts—called “silkies”—and hauling 22 kilograms, or about 50 pounds, of gear to honor the 22 service members who commit suicide every day.

“Imagine a pub crawl with all your Marine buddies wearing nothing but silkies and rucks on the most crowded and beautiful boardwalk in California. That’s what’s going on here,” a Facebook page for Sunday’s event, “22, with 22, for the 22, in silkies,” says. The event is co-sponsored by two veteran support groups, Irreverent Warriors and VETality Corp.

The journey begins at South Mission Beach Jetty in San Diego and will end at La Jolla Cove.

Each day, 22 veterans—or about 8,000 former military servicemembers—commit suicide.

 

TIME Healthcare

15 Weird Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

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Your love for leafy greens may increase risk for kidney stones

Anyone who’s ever passed a kidney stone before has probably wondered how something so small (usually, anyway!) can cause so much pain. Unfair, we know. About 1 in 11 people will suffer from a kidney stone in their lifetime—and once you’ve already had one, you’re about 50% more likely to have another. More bad news: At one time, stones primarily affected men, but new research shows that this gender gap has almost closed, possibly due to the rise in obesity.

What are kidney stones, exactly?

Most kidney stones are a solid mass of minerals that have congealed and lodged itself somewhere in your urinary tract. The majority of them are made of calcium—usually a combination of calcium and oxalate, but, in rarer cases, calcium and phosphate—and, to a much lesser extent, uric acid.

Now for the good news: With a few dietary and lifestyle tweaks, you might be able to slash your odds of ever suffering from a kidney stone again—or, even better, prevent one entirely.

Too little calcium

Since calcium is present in most kidney stones, it makes sense to just cut the nutrient right out of your diet, right? Nope. That was the old thinking. Now experts know that people who consume more calcium are less likely to encounter a kidney stone than those on low-calcium diets, according to one 2013 study by researchers from Harvard Medical School. “It’s all about balance,” says Mantu Gupta, MD, the chair of urology at Mount Sinai Roosevelt and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital. Dr. Gupta goes on to explain that if your diet is deficient in calcium, chemicals called oxalates, which normally bind to calcium in the digestive tract, will instead bind with calcium in the urine and trigger the formation of stones.

Your salad obsession

You eat all the right things, only to end up in a urologist’s office. What gives? Oxalates, again. These substances are found in leafy greens like spinach, rhubarb, and beets. Ideally, those oxalates will bind with calcium in your intestine and be shuttled out of your body via your urinary tract, says Roger L. Sur, MD, director of the University of California San Diego’s Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center. But when the amount of oxalates is too high, these chemicals can concentrate in the urine and lead to a stone formation. That’s not to say you should give up veggies, of course. Talk to your doctor about possible food swaps for lower-oxalate foods—for example, kale instead of spinach or cauliflower in place of amaranth.

A salty diet

Out of all the potential problems caused by too much salt, kidney stones are probably last on the list. But when your sodium intake rises, that can also trigger an increase in the amount of calcium your kidneys excrete. Translation: A build-up of calcium in the urine, which increases the risk of kidney stone formation, says Brian Stork, MD, a urologist and spokesperson for the American Urological Association. Experts recommend that most people limit their sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams per day, but other people, like those with high blood pressure, should lower that to less than 1,500 milligrams per day.

Not enough citrus fruits

If you can’t remember the last time you had a lemon or grapefruit, consider this a reason to up your intake: Citrus fruits contain a compound called citrate, which is thought to help lower the risk of some kidney stones, says Dr. Gupta. Plus, one study in the journal Nature found that when people who normally avoided produce added fruits and vegetables into their diet for one month, they decreased the amount of kidney-stone-causing chemicals that were present in their urine. Try adding a lemon or lime wedge to your water daily, says Dr. Gupta.

Too much meat

On the other hand, eating too much poultry and red meat can also put you at risk for stones: One 2014 study in the journal Nutritional Epidemiology found that vegetarians and fish-eaters were 30 to 50% less likely to have kidney stones than people who ate about 100 grams of meat per day (think: a steak and a half). People who load up on meat might be crowding out fruits and vegetables from their diets—a mistake, since produce contains magnesium, which can also prevent stones from forming.

Living in the South

The Southeastern United States might be known as the Bible Belt, but urologists have another name for it: the kidney stone belt. One oft-cited study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1996 found that people living in this area had nearly double the risk of stones as people living in cooler regions of the United States. Blame the hot, arid climate: “Because the temperatures are higher, people in the South can lose more fluid through sweat and become dehydrated,” says Dr. Gupta. When you aren’t drinking enough water, there will be a higher percentage of minerals in a lower amount of urine, increasing the likelihood that those minerals will bind together to form a stone.

Too much iced tea

Another strike against the sweet-tea-loving South. A 2015 report in the New England Journal of Medicine about a 56-year-old man who was rushed to the hospital for kidney failure after drinking too much iced tea shocked the Internet. And as it turned out, black tea (one of the most popular kinds in the U.S.) is also a major source of oxalate, which can cluster in the urine to form kidney stones. This man was drinking about 16 8-ounce glasses of black tea daily, which is at least double the average person’s daily intake. If you’ve had a kidney stone before, ask your doctor about limiting your consumption to one 8-ounce serving a day, says Dr. Gupta, who also notes that people with super high levels may have to cut it out of their diet completely.

A can of soda

Normally, staying hydrated is one of the smartest ways to avoid kidney stones because it dilutes kidney-stone forming substances: (That’s why experts say that drinking about eight glasses of water a day is one way to prevent them from forming in the first place.) But not all beverages are created equal: One 2013 study found that downing even one sugary-sweet soda a day can increase your odds of developing kidney stones by 23%. Researchers think that the fructose (a sugar) in sweetened drinks causes an increase in kidney stone-causing chemicals. Stick to water, minus the sugar.

Your parents

Here’s something else to thank mom and dad for: If either parent has had a kidney stone, your risk increases as well. Sure, families have similar diets, but there’s a biological reason as well. “Like obesity or diabetes, there are multiple genes involved, and oftentimes, people inherit the inability to efficiently absorb oxalate from their parents,” says Dr. Gupta.

Having IBD

People with inflammatory bowel diseases tend to have a higher risk for stones than those without these serious conditions, and one 2013 study in the International Journal of Nephrology and Renovascular Disease found that those with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis were especially at risk. One reason: These conditions are accompanied by diarrhea, which can increase a person’s risk of dehydration—and, in turn, up the percentage of kidney stone-causing chemicals in lower amounts of urine, says Dr. Stork.

Recurring urinary tract infections

In this case, frequent UTIs are a possible sign of a kidney stone. Some background: Not all stones cause pain—in fact, some can pass through your body unnoticed. But other times, kidney stones stay in your urinary tract and block the flow of urine, which could lead to a UTI. This infection is one possible sign that you may have a kidney stone that you don’t know about, explains Dr. Sur. “In some people, the only way we would have found their kidney stones is because they had recurrent urinary tract infections,” he says.

Using too many laxatives

Laxatives have existed for over 2,000 years, and people have been abusing or misusing them that entire time, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Drugs. Older people dealing with constipation who believe they need to have a bowel movement daily for good health comprise a significant number of laxative abusers, but the largest group, by far, is made up of people suffering from anorexia or bulimia. Laxative overuse may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and medications, and may also bring on an electrolyte imbalance—and it’s been linked to kidney stones, says Dr. Sur. Using too much of these meds may cause people to become dehydrated, which could trigger a stone.

A migraine medication

People who take topiramate (found in the prescription med called Topamax) can be more likely to have kidney stones than those who don’t take this drug, says Dr. Sur. One 2006 study in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases found that topiramate can increase the pH levels in the urinary tract, which may lead to an increased risk of kidney stone formation. (Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication regimen.)

Your weight

Obese women may be about 35% more likely to develop kidney stones than their leaner counterparts, according to a 2011 study in The Journal of Urology. Researchers aren’t quite sure why, but they suspect that the extra poundage changes the environment in your urinary tract, making it easier for kidney stones to form. “People who are obese have altered urinary pH levels, which can cause a buildup of uric acid-forming kidney stones,” says Dr. Sur.

Weight loss surgery

While it’s true that obesity increases your risk of stones, so can bariatric surgery, according to one 2009 study in The Journal of Urology. “It’s thought that after the procedure, people might not absorb as much calcium from their diets,” says Dr. Stork. “When that happens, the build-up of oxalate in the urinary tract could lead to a kidney stone.” If you’ve recently had surgery, talk to your doctor about how you can cut your risk, either by drinking more water, limiting meat and sodium, or consuming enough calcium.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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