TIME Research

Scientists Are Getting Closer to a Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

Brain of a patient affected by Alzheimers disease
Brain of a patient affected by Alzheimers disease Getty Images

The new prediction method had 87% accuracy in a recent study

A team of scientists have identified 10 proteins in the blood that can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, which was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, looked at more than 1,000 people and is considered a significant step toward the development of a blood test for Alzheimer’s. The trouble with the disease is that developing drug treatments is difficult since they are often given in clinical trials when the disease has already progressed too far. The hope is that identifying the disease earlier could pave the way for drugs to halt its progression.

In the study, researchers examined blood samples from 1,148 people. There were 476 with Alzheimer’s, 220 with ‘Mild Cognitive Impairment’ (MCI) and 452 elderly control subjects who did not have dementia. All the blood samples were tested for 26 proteins that were previously linked to Alzheimer’s, and some the participants also had an MRI scan on their brain. First, the researchers found that 16 of the 26 proteins were strongly linked to brain shrinkage that happens with Alzheimer’s and MCI. In a second round of testing, researchers looked at which of the 16 could predict if MCI became Alzheimer’s. It was then that they found the combination of 10 proteins that were able to predict which people with MCI would eventually get Alzheimer’s within a year. The prediction method had 87% accuracy.

“Memory problems are very common, but the challenge is identifying who is likely to develop dementia,” slead study author Dr. Abdul Hye from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London said in a statement. “There are thousands of proteins in the blood, and this study is the culmination of many years’ work identifying which ones are clinically relevant. We now have a set of 10 proteins that can predict whether someone with early symptoms of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment, will develop Alzheimer’s disease within a year, with a high level of accuracy.”

Detecting the disease early-on could be a major breakthrough for clinical trials and would be less expensive than current methods that use brain imaging or cerebrospinal spinal fluid to identify the disease.

 

TIME Family

Children of Same-Sex Parents Are Healthier: Study

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Getty Images

Children of same-sex parents have above average health and well-being, research by the University of Melbourne shows.

The research was based on data from the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, which involved input from 315 same-sex parents and a total of 500 children. Of these participating families, 80 percent had female parents while 18 percent had male partners.

“It appears that same-sex parent families get along well and this has a positive impact on health,” said Dr Simon Crouch from the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, Centre for Health Equity at the University of Melbourne.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Aging

Meet the New Oldest American

Gertrude Weaver holds a flower given to her a day before her 116th birthday at Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation in Camden, Ark on July 3, 2014. Danny Johnston / AP

Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas loves wheelchair dancing and manicures and tells TIME the secret to long life is worshipping God and being kind to others

Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas celebrated her 116th birthday on July 4 and is the new oldest-living American, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps track of super-centenarians worldwide.

The organization’s database administrator Robert Young told the Associated Press that Weaver earned the title after records from the 1900 Census and her 1915 marriage certificate (she wed at 17) confirmed her 1898 birth year. She is now the second-oldest living person, after Misao Okawa of Osaka, Japan, who was born March 5, 1898. Until July 4, the record of oldest living person in the United States was held by Jeralean Talley of Inkster, Michigan, who recently celebrated her 115th birthday on May 23.

When TIME asked how it feels to be the oldest person in the United States right now, Weaver said, “I don’t know. I’ve never been this before.”

The secret to long life is: “Kindness. Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you,” she said over the phone, speaking from her room at Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation, a nursing home in Camden, Ark., about two hours southwest of the state’s capital city Little Rock. “The Lord blessed me, I think, because I’m good to my family and good to my children and grandchildren. And I feed them.”

Nowadays, the highlights of her week are manicures, Bible study, concerts by singers at schools and church groups, and “wheelchair dancing”, part of an exercise class called “Sittercise,” which she attends three times a week. “We chair dance because we can’t get up anymore,” Weaver says. She is also visited regularly by friends and her granddaughter Gradie Welch, 78, who swings by in the mornings and helps her lay out her clothes for the Sunday church service at the facility. “She is a loving and compassionate grandmother,” Welch tells TIME.

In terms of Weaver’s health, the administrator at Silver Oaks Kathy Langley says she does not suffer from any chronic health conditions, which is generally common for super-centenarians. Weaver says she does not drink or smoke and sleeps well. “I do my sleeping anytime.”

TIME recently reported the prevalence of centenarians in the U.S. population at about 1 per 5,000 and 1 per 5 million for super-centenarians, according to Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center, the world’s largest study of centenarians and their families. He argues that the secret to longevity has to do with a rare combination of genes, many of which may be on the X chromosome. Other studies suggest long life may have to do with having strong social ties and just generally being a happy, conscientious and giving person.

Weaver would add trying your best at everything to that list. “Just do what you can, and if we can’t, we can’t.”

MORE: The Third Oldest American Eats Bacon and Loves Lace Lingerie

MORE: The Second Oldest American Says Worship God and Eat Pigs Feet

TIME Research

This Infographic Shows Which World Cup Team Has The Loudest Fans

An unscientific recording of fans' cheering predicts which team will win the World Cup

An expert audiologist with the Hear the World Foundation recorded sound during all four quarter final World Cup games in Sao Paulo, Brazil. When the decibel level spiked above 90, the audiologist recorded the level and for which team the cheering was intended. At the end of each game, the average decibel level of each team’s fans was calculated by adding the decibel levels at each spike, divided by the total number of spikes. Hearing is put into jeopardy at just 90 decibels.

Check out the infographic below for a prediction on who will win the World Cup based on having the loudest fans.

Hear the World Foundation
TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Truth About 6 “Superfood” Seeds

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Thomas Del Brase—Getty Images

Edible seeds haven't been this popular since our hunt-and-gather days. Here's everything you need to know before you dig in

When it comes to nutrition-dense superfoods, seeds are having a bit of a moment. But do they deserve their health halo? “There is an obsession with healthy fats, protein and fiber—it’s like the trinity—and seeds have all three,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago, Illinois. Of course, shortly behind every health food trend are enterprising food companies quick to sell you packaged foods that contain them—making it tough to tell what’s truly good for you and what isn’t.

Here’s a quick primer on six seeds that will help you separate the hype from truth:

Chia

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Karen Schuld—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

What’s good: Chia’s evolution from punch line to power food has finally earned the tiny seeds some respect. Packed with 10g of fiber and nearly 5g of protein per ounce (just under 3 tablespoons), the seeds — which come from a plant in the mint family — can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water, making for a fun addition to everything from puddings (think tapioca without all the sugar) to pancakes. Chefs at the Cleveland Clinic even add the seeds to meatballs for extra bulk and flavor, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at the Ohio hospital. Sold both in big bags and small, single-serve packets for mixing into smoothies, the seeds are also a good source of calcium, Omega-3 fatty acids and phosphorous.

What’s not: Assertions that this ancient seed can lower blood pressure and make you lose weight have not been proven. Chia doesn’t come cheap either: At $12.99 a pound at my local market, it costs more than twice as much as most other seeds.

Hemp

What’s good: Hemp is a variety of cannabis plant, but the only high these seeds will give you is a nutritional one. They’ve got more protein (about 10g per ounce) than any other seed we can think of, making them a great alternative to animal protein. “For adding protein to a smoothie, I am going to go for hemp seeds,” says Blatner. And because protein takes longer to digest than carbs, they may help you feel full longer. Bonus: Each ounce contains three-quarters of the daily recommended Vitamin E and nearly a third of the recommended zinc to help boost your immune system.

What’s not: Search on “cannabis cures cancer” and you’ll find a large and ardent contingent who believe that cannabis, particularly in its oil form, is a magic elixir. Not only is this claim not proven by scientific studies, but the cannabis oil promoted is not the same as the oil made from hemp seeds, which is commonly found in health stores.

Flax

What’s good: An ounce of these slightly nutty seeds contains nearly 8g of fiber along, 12g of fatty acids, and more than a quarter of your daily recommended magnesium, which helps boost energy. The fiber helps with digestion, and there’s also some evidence that flax seeds can lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. Available in either brown or golden varieties, both are equally nutritious.

What’s not: Unlike other seeds, just sprinkling a handful of these bad boys on your yogurt won’t yield their full benefits. As Blatner notes: “Flax seed is best in its ground form so we can get the nutrients out of its shell.” Due to flax seeds’ high oil content, you should refrigerate ground seeds (as well as flaxseed oil).

Pumpkin

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What’s good: For a tasty snack you can enjoy a la carte, roasted pumpkin seeds – also known as pepitas – are the hands-down winner. But where pumpkin seeds really shine is in the kitchen: found in everything from pesto to pipian verde, they’re one of the most versatile seeds you can buy. The green seeds are high in fat (14g per ounce) and relatively low in fiber (2g), but make up for it with nearly 10g of protein and a slew of minerals, including half or more of the daily recommended doses of copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. They’re also a close second to hemp when it comes to zinc. Pumpkin seed oil has also been shown to relieve symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate – a common condition for men over 50.

What’s not: Pepitas are so delicious that it’s tempting to eating too many. Kirkpatrick, RD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute recommends no more than a handful a day, which contains about 160 calories. If you’re worried about your salt intake, consider buying a mix of salted and unsalted pepitas, then mix them together – and enjoy!

Sesame

What’s good: “They’re kind of overlooked because people don’t know what to do with them,” says Kirkpatrick, “but they’re high in zinc, which helps immune health.” Per ounce, the seeds, which are also known as benne seeds, have 5g of protein, 4g of fiber and contain more than a third of the recommended copper (which we need for energy and collagen production) and manganese (which supports bone health). They’re also a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron.

What’s not: Although seed allergies are fairly rare overall, sesame seed allergies in particular are on the rise, with an estimated 0.2% of the population (about half of those who are allergic to cow’s milk) affected in areas where the seeds are available. Chances are you and your kids will be fine, but use caution when introducing the seeds to those who have never tried them.

Nigella

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lois.slokoski.photography—Getty Images/Flickr RF

What’s good: Native to Southwest Asia, nigella seeds are popular in Indian cuisine but have also been used for centuries as a traditional treatment for a broad range of ills, including pink eye, the flu, colic and congestion. Commonly referred to as black seed, kalonji or black cumin, the seed is also sold in an oil form at stores like Whole Foods. An ounce contains 11g of fiber, 5g of protein and 4g of fat, and is a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron.

What’s not: Nigella has been touted as “a remedy for everything but death”—including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. But as dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic points out, “Some limited research has been done, but more needs to be completed before concrete recommendations can be made.” What’s more, the oil form does not contain the dietary fiber or protein found in the whole seeds, so if you want the full benefits you need to eat the whole seed.

TIME Birth Control

The Future of Birth Control: Remote Control Fertility

Birth Control Choices
Birth Control Choices Jenny Swanson—Getty Images

This startup hopes to give women ultimate control over their contraceptive device

We may be just years away from the longest-lasting and most hassle-free contraceptive ever invented.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it is backing a Massachusetts biotech company that is developing an implantable contraceptive that can be activated and deactivated by the user, the MIT Technology Review reports.

Current contraceptive implants—inserted into a woman’s upper arm where they release the hormone progestin—last about three years and are the size of a matchstick. MicroCHIPS Inc. is building a wireless device that is only 20 millimeters long and that would last 16 years. The chip, which would lie under the skin in the buttocks, upper arm or abdomen, slowly releases levonorgestrel, a hormone used in some types of the Pill, in some types of hormonal IUDs and in Plan B.

If the chip works as intended, women could “deactivate” their birth control without a trip to the doctor, which can be a major barrier for women who don’t have easy access to health care, such as in the developing world. The chip’s long lifespan would also minimize doctor’s visits: Currently no type of hormonal birth control lasts longer than five years. The non-hormonal copper IUD lasts 12. (Read more about IUDs here.)

The device is currently being tested for safety, efficacy and security. MicroCHIPS hopes to introduce the product, which would need FDA approval to be used in the United States, in 2018.

[MIT Technology Review]

TIME Infectious Disease

Report: U.S. Citizen Tested for Ebola in Ghana

U.S. Embassy is working to confirm case of deadly virus

A U.S. citizen who traveled in regions of West Africa in the grip of an ebola virus outbreak is being tested for the disease in Ghana.

“He is an American and records showed that he had been to Guinea and Sierra Leone in the past few weeks,” a senior health ministry official told Reuters in an interview. The patient is reportedly quarantined in a clinic in the capital Accra and test results, which should be available later on Monday, are being examined at the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research.

According to Reuters, the U.S. embassy in Ghana has been informed of the case and is working to confirm it.

The ebola outbreak, which started in Guinea, has been declared “out of control” by the health group Doctors Without Borders, which is treating patients in Western Africa. Ebola causes fevers, vomiting, diarrhea and death, and has spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

[Reuters]

TIME child development

Health of Mom Key Factor in Baby Size, Study Says

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And not race or ethnicity, researchers find

The size of a baby at birth has a significant impact on its future health, and a far-reaching new study shows that the greatest disparities in infant size worldwide are due to mothers’ health, not their race or ethnicity.

The large study, led by Oxford University researchers, looked at 60,000 pregnancies in urban areas in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Oman, Kenya, the U.K. and the U.S. During women’s pregnancies, the researchers used ultrasounds to measure the babies’ bone growth in the womb. When the babies were born, they measured their length and head circumference. They found that the babies’ growth in the womb and their size at birth were very similar across countries, if their mothers were healthy and well-educated.

The study debunks the belief that race or ethnicity are the primary factors for a baby’s size at birth. The good news is that the findings suggest if a mother is educated, healthy and well-nourished, her child has an equal shot at good health in the womb and beyond. But the bad news is that women in less fortunate circumstances are already at a disadvantage when it comes to raising a healthy child.

“Currently we are not all equal at birth. But we can be,” lead study author Jose Villar, a professor in the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at University of Oxford said in a statement. “Don’t tell us nothing can be done. Don’t say that women in some parts of the world have small children because they are predestined to do so. It’s simply not true.”

The researchers argue that all mothers can have a similar start if they can be educated and nourished and have access to infection treatments and adequate antenatal care.

The ultimate goal of the study is to create international standards for babies’ optimal growth.

TIME tobacco

Nearly 1 in 5 High School Seniors Smoke Hookah, Study Finds

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Emy Kat—Getty Images/GraphEast RF

The variety of flavors of tobacco makes hookah attractive and easier to conceal from parents, study found

Almost 1 in 5 (18%) of high school seniors smoke waterpipes, or “hookahs”, according to a new study from New York University (NYU) researchers.

The new report, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at a survey of 15,000 high school seniors from 130 public and private high schools nationwide and focused on a population of 5,540 students who were asked about their hookah use between 2010 and 2012.

The researchers found that about one in five seniors reported smoking hookah–waterpipes used to smoke specially-made tobacco–in the last year. And smoking hookah was more common among teens in big cities.

“What we find most interesting is that students of higher socioeconomic status appear to be more likely to use hookah,” said study author Joseph J. Palamar, an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). “Surprisingly, students with more educated parents or higher personal income are at high risk for use.”

Cigarette smoking rates among young people are down, with a recent CDC report showing rates of cigarette smoking among high school students has dropped to its lowest level in 22 years. But public health workers are also worried about other tobacco and nicotine products like cigars, hookah, and e-cigarettes. A 2012 report showed a 123% increase in the use of other smokable tobacco products like cigars and pipes.

The researchers note, however, that smoking hookah doesn’t usually happen as often as cigarettes, and tends to happen more occasionally. Still, the researchers are worried about “hookah pens,” smoking devices similar to e-cigs which makes smoking hookah simpler. “These nifty little devices are likely to attract curious consumers, possibly even non-cigarette smokers,” said Palamar. Hookah tobacco tends to come in different flavors, and may be easier to conceal.

TIME Essence Festival 2014

Watch Robin Roberts and Her Sister Tell Their Remarkable Story

The sisters also shared how their unwavering faith in God helped them through the most trying times

Good Morning America host Robin Roberts and her sister Sally-Ann appeared together at the 20th anniversary Essence Festival Friday to share the remarkable story about how Sally-Ann helped save her sister’s life.

In June 2012, the ABC anchor announced she was diagnosed with a blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome, just five years after beating breast cancer. Two years later, thanks to the life-saving bone marrow donation her sister provided, Robin is healthy, happy, and most of all–grateful.

“You don’t take it for granted that someone is going to put their life on hold for you,” Robin said, holding back tears. But Sally-Ann said she never would have considered not providing the bone marrow that saved her younger sister’s life.

“I was born for this,” Sally Ann said. ” I believe that before I was in my mothers womb that God knew. I believe that God allowed me to be a perfect genetic match.”

Sally-Ann took a moving moment during their talk to thank God for her sister’s health. “Isn’t God good,” Sally-Ann said, before leading the crowd of festival-goers in a song of praise. “Look at Robin!”

The crowd stood when Sally-Ann, a broadcast journalist based in Louisiana, asked who in the audience prayed for Robin’s health and healing. They sang “Thank you, Lord,” when Sally-Ann began to sing a hymn of praise.

The sisters took part in a talk on sisterhood during the 20th Anniversary Essence Festival. More of the sisters’ story is shared in Robin Roberts’ new book, Everybody’s Got Something. The sisters used the word of God and their unwavering faith to speak to the power of believing–particularly in moments when faith is tested.

“Optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use,” Robin said.

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