TIME Mental Health/Psychology

PTSD Is Linked to Food Addiction in Women, New Study Finds

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"Weight status is not just a symptom of willpower and education," a researcher says. "There may be psychological factors in play too"

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry has found that women who suffer from the worst symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are twice as likely to be addicted to food than those who do not, Reuters reports.

Researchers link symptoms of PTSD in women to a psychological dependence on food, or food addiction. But the study doesn’t mean that there is a direct connection between PTSD and overeating.

“We don’t know if it’s causal. It’s an interesting relationship and probably worth following up,” Susan Mason, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, told Reuters.

To find out whether women were more likely to have a food addiction, in 2008 researchers asked 49,408 female nurses about PTSD symptoms. A year later they then asked the same group about food addiction.

They found the more symptoms of PTSD a woman had, the more likely it was for her to be addicted to food.

The findings could help doctors treat women with eating disorders, reports Reuters.

“Clinicians may be able to look for that information to deliver better care,” Mason said.

Researchers still don’t know what occurs first — food addiction or PTSD — but they hope the study will help them connect the dots.

“I just want this to add to a lot of research that people’s weight status is not just a symptom of willpower and education,” Mason said. “There may be psychological factors in play too.”


TIME Cancer

Senate Passes Bill for Better Sunscreen

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A highly anticipated bill that could bring more sunscreen ingredients to market has passed

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to current pending sunscreen ingredients within a shorter period of time — an important factor in ensuring that people have the most up-to-date ways to protect their skin from cancer-causing UVA rays, proponents of the legislation have argued.

While skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S., eight sunscreen ingredients have been pending in FDA backlog for years — some for over a decade — even while several of the pending ingredients have already been used in Europe and Asia for years.

As TIME reported in May, proponents for sunscreen modernization were optimistic that a bipartisan bill, the Sunscreen Innovation Act, would pass over the summer. The bill, which also requires the FDA to respond to all potential sunscreen ingredients in the future within a year and a half at maximum, moved along quickly through the summer months. A version of the bill was passed by the House in July. Now, the House and Senate will meet to agree on a final legislation of the bill. Once they reach consensus, it will go to President Obama to sign.

“The two bills are pretty darn similar, so we don’t anticipate the negotiation will be contentious,” says Michael Werner, policy adviser of the Public Access to SunScreens Coalition.

One of the reasons it takes so long for sunscreen ingredients to get approval in the U.S. is because of the regulation process that the FDA currently has in place. In Europe, ingredients are regulated as cosmetics, but in the U.S. sunscreens are go through a process similar to drug approval, which takes longer and has more safety requirements.

However, many ingredients had not received any feedback from the FDA, not even negative feedback, which prompted skin-care advocates and policymakers to question why the FDA had taken so long to respond, even given the excuse of a stringent system.

As the bill began to move through the voting process, the FDA started responding to some of the pending applications.

Read more of TIME’s coverage on the sunscreen bill here.

TIME ebola

Here’s How Much Money the World Has Spent Battling Ebola

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
A Liberian burial team wearing protective clothing retrieves the body of a 60-year-old Ebola victim from his home on Aug. 17, 2014 near Monrovia. John Moore—Getty Images

The number's a lot lower than you think—but hundreds of millions more have been pledged

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that nearly $1 billion will be required to fight Ebola, but less than one-fifth of that amount has actually been funded.

As of Wednesday, roughly $155 million has so far been delivered, with funds coming from countries, global agencies, private companies, individuals and other entities, according to data collected by the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), which records all reported international humanitarian aid.

According to FTS’s most recent data, another $183.5 million has been pledged — meaning the donations have been promised but not yet delivered — and on Tuesday, the Obama Administration committed an additional $500 million. If every dollar pledged so far is delivered, $838 million will have been donated to fight the ongoing Ebola crisis.

The U.S., African Development Bank, and private individuals or organizations top the donor list, according to FTS data, while the World Bank has the highest uncommitted pledge of over $100 million. (By definition, FTS reports “funding” as the sum of payments delivered and contributions bounded by legal obligation. “Uncommitted pledges” are nonbinding announcements of an intended contribution. FTS data includes only 2014 funding and pledges. Additionally, figures include only what the FTS is able to document.)

Here’s a full breakdown of what the world has spent battling Ebola, as of Wednesday, Sept. 17.

That the actual funding to fight the Ebola outbreak lags behind its goal follows the trends of other crises and natural disaster donations logged by FTS. Historically, only two-thirds of total requirements per year were actually funded: in 2013, for example, only 65% of the total requirements of crises were met, and in 2012, that number was 62%. Here’s a look at specific crises and natural disasters, and how funding has failed to meet requirements.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Things You Need to Know to Get Lean

Morning spinning
Xavier Arnau—Getty Images

Summer is just about over, which means fewer distractions like vacations and barbecues to derail your fitness goals. Now is the perfect time to ramp your workouts into high gear and get that physique you have always wanted.

You’ll need to live by these 5 rules in the gym—and the kitchen!—to help reveal that lean body.

Get enough protein

Protein takes the most energy to digest: Between 20 and 30% of the calories in each gram of protein are burned during digestion, compared to 5-10% of the calories in carbohydrates. So if you eat 100 calories’ worth of protein, you’re left with 70 to 80 calories after digestion, versus 90 to 95 calories from carbs. It adds up fast and your waistline will thank you. Protein is also essential for repairing your muscles after workouts. Most women need between 50 and 60 grams per day, but it depends on your weight and activity level. Try this formula to figure out how much protein you need. So next time you’re thinking of snacking on those baked chips, grab a Greek yogurt or some string cheese instead.

Do more interval training

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: To get the most bang for your buck, high-intensity interval training is the way to go. It involves a mix of exercise types, like strength-training and cardio, with minimal rest between moves (like 15 to 30 seconds). Not only is it the most time-efficient workout style, it has been proven to burn more fat and calories than a traditional steady-state cardio workout. You’ll also continue to burn more calories and fat in the 24 hours after you finish—an added bonus. Aim to do interval training up to 3 times a week, but no more. Just like anything else too much of a good thing can backfire. You want to give your body ample time to recover. Try this 15-Minute Workout to Change Your Fat to Muscle.

Take photos and track progress

When you look in the mirror to try to see the effects of your workout routine, sometimes it can be hard to notice any results if you have nothing to compare it to. Take pictures throughout all the different stages of your workout and diet efforts so you have a benchmark. This will also help motivate you as you can see your body actively changing week to week. Think of this to push you through that last grinding round of intervals.

Lift heavier weights

To make sure you’re working your muscles to their fullest potential, try adding heavier weights to your workout once or twice a week. By switching up your routine and challenging your muscles with weights they’re not familiar with, they’ll be forced to work harder, change body composition, and increase your lean muscle mass. The more muscle you have the more calories you will burn throughout the day. So instead of grabbing your usual dumbbells, reach for the next heaviest weight, whether that’s 10 pounds, 12, 15, or more.

Get sporty

Sometimes we need a change from the routine, so make a game out of your next workout! Doing something like playing volleyball or soccer will get your blood flowing, muscles burning and you’ll be torching calories all while you’re having fun. Since sports have you running in all different directions you get a better cardio workout versus a linear cardio regimen on the treadmill. You don’t have to be good at sports to play them; just get out there and have a good time while toning your lean body.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME ebola

Why the U.S. Has a Special Responsibility to Help Liberia with Ebola

Residents look on as the body of a man suspected of dying from Ebola lies in a busy street, after it was reportedly dragged there to draw attention of burial teams following days of failed attempts by his family to have his body picked up, in Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 15, 2014.
Residents look on as the body of a man suspected of dying from Ebola lies in a busy street, after it was reportedly dragged there to draw attention of burial teams following days of failed attempts by his family to have his body picked up, in Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 15, 2014. Daniel Berehulak—The New York Times/Redux

In committing troops and cash to fighting Ebola in Liberia first, the U.S. is drawing on old historical ties

When U.S. President Barack Obama announced a dramatic expansion of American aid and military personnel to help combat Ebola in Liberia on Sept. 16, it wasn’t just because the country was suffering the worst of a devastating outbreak that has claimed nearly 2,500 lives and sickened at least twice as many more in West Africa. Though the rapidly rising death toll—the number of cases in Liberia nearly doubled over the past three weeks—is enough to more than enough to merit international concern, there are also deep historical links between Liberia and the U.S. Liberia is the closest thing America ever had as a colony in Africa, and the two countries share a unique history, strong ties—and a certain responsibility to each other.

Dubbed “Another America” by American historian James Ciment in his recent book on the country, Liberia was founded by American statesmen in 1820 and populated, forcibly by some accounts, with former slaves. According to Ciment’s account, it was an attempt to rid the United States of its burgeoning population of freed blacks, which Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, then speaker of the House, called in 1816 “useless and pernicious, if not dangerous.” It was a kind of “ethnic cleansing” for a country uncomfortable with the idea of slavery yet not prepared to accept blacks as full members of society, Ciment said in a recent interview.

By the the time of the Civil War, Clay’s American Colonization Society, founded with fellow Congressmen John Randolph and Daniel Webster to purchase land in West Africa, had sent more than 10,000 American blacks to the new country, which they called Liberia. They named the capital Monrovia, after James Monroe, who was the U.S. President when the capital was established.

The new immigrants, who came to be known as “Americoes,” set up a society largely modeled on that of the antebellum South, taking local natives as servants, and, eventually, as slaves who could be ‘leased’ out to work on the country’s lucrative rubber plantations. That early legacy of inequality laid the foundations for the revolutionary foment that eventually led to a sequence of brutal civil wars beginning in 1989 that ended only in 2003.

Liberia has only just emerged from the ravages of those conflicts, and its economy, infrastructure and leadership are not yet prepared to take on a crisis as big as the current Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone, of course, suffers a similar post-conflict situation due to its own recent civil war, but there Ebola is not as widespread.

Still, there has been some grumbling from residents of both Sierra Leone and Guinea, the two other countries most affected by the outbreak, that they are not getting as much American largesse. American officials say that the assitance at the epicenter of the outbreak will help all afflicted countries. But each of those countries is getting additional assistance from former colonial masters as well: France is sending 20 health and medical disaster specialists to Guinea and has donated $200,000 to the French Red Cross’s operations there, in addition to a $1 million grant to the European Union’s humanitarian agency’s work on Ebola in the region. And Britain has announced that it will be sending troops to its former colony, Sierra Leone, to set up a 62-bed facility there. It has also committed $40 million to battle the outbreak region wide.

But even nations with no historical connection to the region are pitching in, not least would-be soft power China, which pledged to dispatch 174 epidemiologists, nurses and doctors to Sierra Leone. Considering China’s huge investments in the region, however, it has been criticized for its paltry economic assistance in the crisis.

The driving issue with all this assistance, is not how much is being offered, but how quickly it can get there. Even America’s proposed treatment wards, about ten of which will be built across the country, only offer enough places for 1,700 Ebola patients. The best solution for stopping Ebola in its tracks is quickly identifying and isolating victims. But 1,700 places for Ebola patients is barely adequate for the number of suspected cases in Liberia at the moment. With numbers doubling every three weeks, the longer it takes to get the treatment wards in place, the more beds—and graves—there will need to be.

TIME ebola

World Bank: Ebola’s Economic Impact Could Be ‘Catastrophic’

The West African country of Liberia is crippled by a recent outbreak of the Ebola virus.
People rush to line up at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare seeking work from the anticipated Ebola related jobs that will be coming to Liberia on Tuesday September 16, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The Washington Post/Getty Images

The group calculated economic losses based on two Ebola scenarios

The economic impact of Ebola could grow eight-fold if the virus continues to spread significantly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the World Bank said Wednesday, with the disease having a potentially “catastrophic” impact on the three West African countries’ already fragile economies.

“The primary cost of this tragic outbreak is in human lives and suffering, which has already been terribly difficult to bear,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in a statement. “But our findings make clear that the sooner we get an adequate containment response and decrease the level of fear and uncertainty, the faster we can blunt Ebola’s economic impact.”

In its report, the organization said Ebola could have up to an $809 million impact on the three countries’ economies by the end of next year, depending on how the virus is managed. Much of the economic cost of the disease stems from what the World Bank calls “aversion behaviors,” including the tendency for people to drop out of the labor force as they seek refuge fro

To mitigate Ebola’s costs, the World Bank calls for increased foreign aid to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as additional screening for and treatment of the disease.

“External financing is clearly needed in the three core countries, and the impact estimates suggest that containment and mitigation expenditures as high as several billion dollars would be cost-effective if they successfully avert the worse scenario,” the World Bank’s report reads.

Earlier this week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the U.S. is deploying 3,000 U.S. military forces and over $500 million in defense spending to West Africa to fight the Ebola outbreak.


TIME Research

This Could Be the Most Secure Password Ever

Gen Nishino—Getty Images

Scientists are using your heart as a security authenticator

In the wake of serious security breaches in the last year, from the pilfering of Target customers’ credit card information to the celebrity iCloud selfie-hack, it’s easy to feel digitally naked. Your current best options—like making your password something along the lines of “**_^XBE47>>” or using two-step verification—also have their shortcomings, which has inspired a crop of enterprising scientists to come up with what must be the oddest, and possibly most secure, password yet: the rhythm of your heart.

A team of Toronto scientists has developed a wristband that can use your own heart rhythm, as measured by electrocardiograms (ECG), as an authenticator for everything from accessing email to unlocking cell phones and other gadgets. In a recent talk at the TEDMED conference in Washington and San Francisco, biometric security engineer Foteini Agrafioti told audiences that because our hearts are so unique—from their size to their orientation in the chest to how they pump our blood—they may be the perfect security “password.” The ECG-authenticating wristband, Nymi, is available for preorder on the company’s website for $79.

“We want to make authentication easy and for it to melt into the background,” says Karl Martin, CEO and founder of Nymi’s parent company Bionym. That’s what sets it apart from, say, Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint authenticator, which requires a person to prove themselves with every transaction, instead of being constantly read.

The company is now working on partnerships with password platforms, payment systems and travel companies with the hopes that this kind of ECG reading might soon be seamlessly adopted.

Biometrics are still not perfect, but the possibilities are vast. In her TEDMED speech, Agrafioti said she believes the future of security lies in the parts of our bodies that are difficult to steal and biologically exclusive. Think lip prints, tongue prints, nose pores, and even the acoustic emissions our ears make. “Don’t be surprised if we have managed to embed tiny microphones into earphones so your music player only unlocks in your own ears,” said Agrafioti.

“You look at the way we prove our identities and it’s archaic. Technology has advanced so much and still if we want to prove who we are, it’s usually with a password or a pin,” says Martin. “A lot of what we are focusing on for the future is not even directly security-related. It’s about hyper-personalization. How can you have a different experience if devices or smart things around you knew who you were and knew your preferences? In smart environments, like a smart home, you shouldn’t have to put in your password on a wall—it should just know it’s you.”

Agrafioti said we need to be willing to think outside the box to keep our information safe: “Passwords are broken because hackers are sophisticated but also because we as humans are just not up to taking ridiculous precautions to maintain our security.”

If their predictions are correct, one day it won’t be “ridiculous” to use your heart rhythms as a password—it will be ridiculous not to.

TIME Research

Bumpy, Shark-Like Surfaces Could Lessen Disease Transmission

Bacteria doesn't stick to the sharky material

A surface that imitates the scaly, bumpy skin of sharks could reduce the transmission of bacteria in hospitals, according to a new study in the journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control.

“The [pattern] consistently demonstrated a reduction in microbial attachment, transference, and survival following simulated real-world inoculation methods,” the study said of the micropattern tested, called Sharklet. “When adopted into real-world use, application of the [micropattern] onto high-touch surfaces in hospitals or shared public spaces is expected to limit environmental contamination of infectious microorganisms.”

Bacteria struggles to attach itself to the textured surface of the Sharklet micropattern. The study found that surfaces with the micropattern retained 94% less antibiotic resistant bacteria than an ordinary smooth surface.

In the past, health officials have considered installing copper surfaces, which kills some bacteria. The study found that copper surfaces reduced bacteria by 80%.

In a press release, Ethan Mann, a researcher for the maker of the product, said the micropattern would be manufactured as a part of typical plastic surfaces in hospitals including “environmental surfaces” and “medical devices.”

“Sharklet does not introduce new materials or coatings – it simply alters the shape and texture of existing materials to create surface properties that are unfavorable for bacterial contamination,” he said.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t the Answer to Obesity: Here’s Why

Artificial sweeteners may be contributing to the very health problems they were supposed to prevent, say researchers Tetra Images—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

They’re supposed to be the sweet alternative to high-calorie, diabetes-causing sugar. But the latest science shows that artificial sweeteners may actually set us up for obesity and diabetes

Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose—sugar alternatives go by many names, but share an almost irresistible promise: all the sweetness of sugar without the calories, weight gain and increased risk of diabetes that comes with uncontrolled amounts of sugar in the blood.

But studies on artificial sweeteners and weight loss—as well as research about whether sugar substitutes helped people avoid metabolic disorders like diabetes—have been mixed. And in a paper published Wednesday in Nature, Dr. Eran Elinav from the Weitzmann Institute of Science in Israel found that the sugar stand-ins actually contribute to changes in the way the body breaks down glucose. How? Fake sugars aren’t digested and therefore pass directly to the intestines, impacting the millions of invisible bacteria that live in our gut. And when he and his colleagues gave seven people who didn’t normally use artificial sweeteners the sugar substitutes for seven days, about half of the people showed higher blood glucose levels after just four days.

MORE: 5 Steps to Quitting Artificial Sweeteners

“What our comprehensive genetic profiling of the microbiome pointed to is that exposure to artificial sweeteners directly impacts the microbes,” Elinav says. “We found that the artificial sweeteners we think of as beneficial and that we use as treatment or preventive measures against obesity and its complications are contributing to the same epidemics they are aimed to prevent.”

In the intestines, gut microbes are hard at work, pulling out some nutrients from food that are helpful in stopping tumor growth, for example, and squirreling away others to store as energy for later use. But while artificial sweeteners aren’t absorbed by our own cells, they may be absorbed by our bacteria—and when that happens, things appear to go haywire.

Higher amounts of the sweetener substitutes, Elinav and his team found, can change the makeup of these bacterial communities. And that in turn can change how those bugs behave, leading to weight gain and poorer glucose breakdown. These alterations in intestinal bacteria were the same as those in a group of 400 people who reported using artificial sweeteners—and those changes were the same in mice as well.

MORE: Why Your Brain Isn’t Fooled By Sugar Stand-Ins

In the mouse studies, Elinav’s team found that the artificial sweeteners pushed one particular group of bacteria, Bacteroides, to thrive, while inhibiting growth of another, Clostridiales. Bacteroides are the microbial equivalent of hoarders, hungrily pulling energy out of food and squirreling it away as fat. The end result of a Bacteroides-heavy gut is a physically heavy gut as well. In studies by other research groups, its dominance, and the resulting drop in diversity of other microbes, is typical of obese people compared to normal weight individuals.

MORE: 7 Not-So-Sweet Lessons About Sugar

The metabolic consequences were also dramatic in both the mice and people studied. In the mouse experiments, animals who were fed the same dose of saccharin that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers safe for daily use showed a drop in their ability to break down glucose. When he gave those mice antibiotics, their ability to break down glucose returned to normal, suggesting that wiping out the abnormal balance of bacteria could return the animals back to a healthier state.

And to confirm that the changing microbial communities were indeed responsible for the glucose changes, he also transplanted fecal samples from the people using artificial sweeteners into mice whose own guts had been wiped clean. These mice then developed the same abnormalities in glucose breakdown that the human donors and the mice who were fed saccharin did—even though they never actually ate artificial sweeteners. Simply harboring the microbes that had been exposed to the sweeteners was enough to disturb their glucose metabolism.

MORE: Can Sugar Substitutes Make You Fat?

The good news is that as easily as the gut microbiome can shift toward an unhealthy state, it can just as easily be brought back into line with the proper balance of bacterial communities. The best way to do that isn’t clear yet, but, says Eran Segal, a co-author of the study and a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at the Weitzmann Insttitute, “We believe that the situation today at the very least needs to be re-examined. We were able to induce glucose intolerance in a few days in some individuals, so this massive, unsupervised and unregulated use [of artificial sweeteners] should at the very least be reassessed and perhaps re-examined in additional studies.”

Elinav, for one, isn’t waiting. Based on his findings, he’s stopped adding artificial sweeteners to his coffee.


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