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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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

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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

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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

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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.”

TIME public health

Health Watchdog Group to Challenge E-Cig Manufacturers in Court

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Victor de Schwanber—Getty Images A person "vapes," or smokes an e-cigarette.

The watchdog group found cancer-causing chemicals in most of the 97 e-cigarette products it tested

A health watchdog group will challenge e-cigarette manufacturers in California court over cancer-causing chemicals in their products.

The Center for Environmental Health found one or more cancer-causing chemical in the majority of the 97 products tested by its researchers. The findings, which are detailed in a new report from the group, are the basis of legal action arguing that cigarette manufacturers failed to inform users of their risk under a California consumer protection law.

“Anyone who thinks that vaping is harmless needs to know that our testing unequivocally shows that it’s not safe to vape,” said CEH Executive Director Michael Green in a press release. “Our legal action aims to force the industry to comply with the law and create pressure to end their most abusive practices.”

Read More: 4 Weird Health Effects of E-Cigarettes

The watchdog group purchased 97 e-cigarette products from major retailers and online before sending them to a laboratory for testing. Scientists found high levels of either or both formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in 50 of the products.

Recent research has warned of the health risks of e-cigarettes, though many argue that they are an improvement on cigarettes. Scientists need to conduct additional research before a full understanding of their effects can emerge.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

10 Foods That May Trigger a Migraine

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Alcohol, cured meats and aged cheeses all could bring on a bad headache

As if migraines weren’t awful enough, it can be downright overwhelming to sidestep all the things that could set off an attack. Problem is, food triggers not only vary from person to person, but much of our knowledge about them comes less from carefully controlled studies and more from observing patients, explains Lee Peterlin, DO, the director of headache research at Johns Hopkins University.

Before you cut out every one of these items from your diet, here’s something to keep in mind: Fasting or skipping meals can be an even bigger migraine trigger for women, says Dr. Peterlin. Remember that as you go through this list, then turn to your fridge. (Though you might want to reconsider that charcuterie…)

Alcohol

Wine, especially red, is believed to be one migraine trigger. According to a review by researchers in Brazil, migraine sufferers say that alcohol may play a role in their attacks about 30% of the time or more. The reason is still up for debate, but some experts believe that certain compounds in wine, like tannins and flavonoids, are the culprits. One 2014 study suggested that red wines that contains higher amounts of tannins—think big, bold wines like cabernet sauvignon—might be even more likely to trigger a migraine. Plus, drinking alcohol may lead to dehydration, which can also contribute to a headache, says Dr. Peterkin.

Caffeine

If you’re prone to migraines, you might want to reconsider your coffee or soda intake: Too much of it can cause an attack, possibly because caffeine acts on certain receptors in the brain that are linked with migraines, according to one 2009 review. Limit caffeinated beverages to 8 to 12 ounces a day, says Dr. Peterlin.

But there’s a twist: Since caffeine has a pain relieving effect, consuming a small amount of it during an attack may actually help that “just-kill-me-now feeling” to subside faster—as long as you’re not overusing it in the first place, she says.

Aged cheeses

Gorgonzola. Camembert. Cheddar. Aged cheeses (i.e., all the good ones) are beloved for their rich flavors and textures—and because life isn’t fair, they’re also commonly cited migraine triggers. Experts aren’t sure what, specifically, is to blame, but research suggests that aged cheeses can contain compounds called tyramines, which may interact with the neurotransmitters in the body and lead to a migraines.

Cured or processed meats

Hot dogs, sausages, even that turkey sandwich you had for lunch—all of those foods might set off a migraine too, says Rebecca Traub, MD, a neurologist with ColumbiaDoctors. These meats can contain a preservative called sodium nitrate, and researchers speculate that this additive may also cause changes in brain chemistry that contribute to the headache.

MSG

You might be familiar with monosodium glutamate (MSG)—it’s gotten a bad rap over the years, mainly for its possible link to obesity. Lesser known is the suspicion that it may also contribute to migraines. Although the evidence isn’t conclusive, one 2008 study suggested that 2.5% of these headaches may be triggered by the ingredient. If you’re trying to avoid the stuff, just remember that, yes, MSG can be found in Chinese foods and packaged products, but it’s also found naturally in foods like tomatoes and cheeses and in ingredients like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Citrus fruits

This food group is still up for debate—some studies have found a link between migraines and citruses, while others haven’t. Still, it’s possible that citrus fruits might trigger migraines in some sufferers, and they’re certainly on experts’ radars as being a possible—though much rarer—culprit, says Traub. To help pinpoint what’s causing your migraines, Traub recommends keeping a headache diary, either on a calendar or in a journal. Log your migraines, the severity of the attack, the foods you’ve been consuming, and any medications that you’re taking, she says.

Aspartame

No stranger to controversy, this artificial sweetener is also suspected of triggering migraines in some people. “It’s one of the first items I ask my patients to cut out of their diets,” says Louise Klebanoff, MD, a neurologist with the Headache Center at Weill Cornell Medical College. That recommendation is based more on observation that carefully-controlled studies, but if you want to avoid the low-cal sweetener, it can be found in in packaged foods and beverages, including diet sodas, breakfast cereals, puddings, gelatins, and more.

Legumes

Beans, peas, and lentils are also suspected migraine triggers, says Dr. Traub, though they’re also less common offenders than, say, alcohol and caffeine. Experts haven’t quite pinned down why legumes seem to bother some migraine sufferers, but other research points to the importance of plant foods in warding off these headaches: One 2014 study in The Journal of Headache and Pain found that people who went on a vegan diet experienced less pain during their headaches than they had on their normal diet. Sure, plant foods contain anti-inflammatory compounds, but the researchers also note that their subjects lost weight during the study—and obesity in particular has been linked with migraines, according to some research.

Nuts

This food also falls into the “not well studied, but observed by doctors” category, says Dr. Klebanoff. “I tell people to watch their diets, but don’t be obsessive,” she says. “If every time you eat a handful of nuts and you get a headache in the next four to 12 hours, then it’s probably a trigger.”

Chocolate

This one’s tricky. “Chocolate hasn’t been substantiated as a true migraine trigger,” says Dr. Peterlin. While people may believe that chocolate is the culprit behind their headaches”, some experts think that the reverse is actually true—that the craving for sweets is a symptom of an oncoming migraine, not the cause of it. According to the 2012 review by researchers in Brazil, people in the earliest stages of a migraine attack can experience chocolate cravings, but that the food itself isn’t responsible for the headache. But because it can be hard to tell which is which, Dr. Klebanoff says that it’s still on her list of potential migraine triggers—and something that people should be aware of.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME Research

You Asked: Why Are My Hangovers Getting Worse?

Peter Oumanski for TIME

As you age, your brain and body don’t recover so readily from a night of heavy drinking.

There were times in college when you swallowed enough beer to slake a small Irish village and somehow recovered in time to do it again the following night. These days, you have a couple pints or a martini and wake up feeling like Floyd Mayweather’s punching bag—in an achy, tremulous state that lingers for days. What’s the deal with that?

Hangovers are fickle beasts. Experts who study them still can’t agree on many of the details, says Dr. Rachel Vreeman, director of research at Indiana University’s Center for Global Health. Alcohol-induced dehydration, hormone dysregulation and inflammation all seem to play a part in your next-morning blues. But which one of those is most to blame is still being debated, Vreeman says.

Research suggests certain compounds or impurities found in alcoholic drinks, like congeners, tannins and sulfites, may exacerbate aspects of your hangover. The presence of these compounds might explain why certain types of booze seem to intensify your next-morning blues.

That said, your drink’s alcohol content—the amount of ethanol it contains—is always going to be the principal driver of a hangover, says Dr. Michael Oshinsky, a neuroscientist with the National Institutes of Health.

Oshinsky says your liver breaks down ethanol into a toxic chemical compound called acetaldehyde, which is then converted into another toxin called acetate. This acetate conversion happens throughout your body, including in the tissues of your brain, his experiments show. These circulating levels of acetaldehyde and acetate—and the inflammation they cause—are the root cause of your headache.

While there’s not a lot of good research on hangovers and aging, Vreeman says the process by which your body manages these chemical byproducts may grow less efficient as you get older. One study from South Korea suggests your liver’s production of enzymes and antioxidants that break down alcohol into acetaldehyde may decrease as you age. “You might have more of those toxic chemicals hanging around,” Vreeman says.

More bad news: An aging body just won’t bounce back from alcohol-induced inflammation and cell damage the way a younger one would, Vreeman says.

If you have kids, you know a toddler’s bruised knee or scraped knuckle miraculously heals in a day or two, while a cut on your finger might linger for a week or more. Likewise, you may remember easily recovering from heavy exercise during your teens or twenties, but now a long workout may leave you sore for days. The National Institute on Aging refers to this as “immunosenescence,” or the gradual weakening of your immune system as you age. It’s not that your body doesn’t heal; in many cases, it just doesn’t heal quite as quickly, research suggests.

Lots of other factors may play a role in your increasingly harsh hangovers. Body fat, hormonal changes and even your willingness to gorge on post-bar pizza may factor into the severity of your next-day headache or nausea. But when you distill all the research, your worsening hangovers should probably be lumped in with wrinkles, gray hairs, and all the other unfortunate-but-inevitable realities of aging.

Of course, you’re also wiser than your hard-drinking younger self. So when the bartender asks if you’ll have another, order a glass of water instead.

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