TIME Research

Here’s How Hugs Can Prevent the Flu

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Hug-deprived people may get more severe colds

Want to stay well this flu season? New research suggests you can inoculate yourself with a hug—sort of.

For a study published Thursday in the journal Psychological Science, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University had an inkling that hugs—as an indicator of social support but also because it involves touch—might pack a flu-fighting punch. Studies have shown that strong social ties can protect against stress, anxiety and depression, and the researchers wanted to see if they can be a buffer for a purely physiological diseases, too. The researchers discovered that it did.

For two weeks, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University called up 400 people daily and assessed their levels of social support. They asked them if they’d been hugged that day, and if they were experiencing any conflicts or tension with people. The researchers then gave them nasal drops brimming with either the cold or flu virus, quarantined them for about a week in a hotel, and monitored their symptoms. (Everyone who participated in the study was compensated for their time, says study co-author Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon.)

Even though everyone was exposed to infection-causing drops, 78% who developed an infection and 31% actually got sick—meaning they had physical symptoms of illness. For the unfortunate third whose hugs weren’t enough to prevent physical symptoms of being sick, they at least got some big benefit: those who got regularly hugged and those who felt they had more social support had less severe symptoms than the hug-deprived.

“There’s a lot of evidence out there suggesting that touch might be really effective at protecting people from stressors,” says Cohen, and this study adds to that very hug-friendly body of work. “It’s a communication to people that you care about them, and that you have a close intimate relationship with them.”

And as for the ideal “dose” of hugs? Cohen says: “It looks like one hug a day might be enough.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Ways to Prep Healthy Breakfasts Ahead of Time

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Smoothies, eggs and (more with almost no effort)

Do your weekday mornings feel like a mad rush? Yeah, us too. Wake up, work out (sometimes), shower, dress, get the kids ready…oh, and have a balanced, healthy breakfast, too.

Sound crazy? It is possible, but to me, the only way to have even a shot at it is to do some advance prep. Don’t worry, we’re not going to crowd up your nights: a bit of easy work either on Sunday or during the week can set you up with nourishing breakfasts for days.

Try these 5 make-ahead tricks.

Hard-boiled eggs

Sure, eggs can make a quick breakfast—but sometimes even the 5 minutes it takes to make a scramble is too long. Instead, cook up a dozen eggs on Sunday and keep them in the fridge all week. Be careful to avoid overcooking the eggs; that leads to rubbery whites and that icky ring around the overcooked yolk. Luckily, perfect hard-boiled eggs are easy to make.

HEALTH.COM: How to Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs With a Spoon

Mini frittatas

If you’re looking for something jazzier than plain eggs, try baking up mini frittatas in a muffin tin. You can mix in chopped, cooked vegetables, cheese, herbs—anything you like. You can even make a variety within the same batch to please different family members. Take them out of the pan and store in a covered container in the fridge, then heat up one or two each morning.

Quality grains

Oatmeal is the king of breakfast grains, but other whole grains can make delicious hot cereals, too. Make it super-easy by prepping a big batch of a grain on Sunday. Store it covered in the fridge all week, and take out ½ cup to 1 cup at a time to whip up something quick. (Quinoa, brown rice, and millet work especially well.)

Warm it on the stove mixed with some milk (dairy, almond or coconut), cinnamon, and a little maple syrup, then top with a chopped apple or sliced banana. Heartier and lower in sugar than instant oatmeal, and way more interesting. Bonus: Those pre-made grains can help you put together a quick dinner, too. Can’t imagine anything other than oatmeal in the a.m.? Overnight oats and baked oatmeal are great options.

HEALTH.COM: Oatmeal Recipes for Every Day of the Week

Pre-measured smoothies

Smoothies are a fantastic quick breakfast, and all you have to do is toss everything in a blender, right? Well, even that can take up precious time in the morning. Make them lightning-fast by pre-prepping. Measure out your frozen fruits and vegetables and store in a plastic bag—just make a different one for each day. I tend to make my own mix of add-ins instead of using pre-made protein powder, so I prep that in advance, too (I use 2 Tbsp. hemp seeds, a small scoop of maca powder, a tsp. of cinnamon and sometimes 1 to 2 Tbsp. raw cacao, if I need a chocolate fix). In the morning, toss one fruit-vegetable mix, one powder mix, and some water or milk in the blender, blend and go.

Leftovers

Breakfast doesn’t have to mean traditional breakfast food. Make a few extra portions of dinner, keep it in the fridge, and warm it up in the morning. I’ve done this with my spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs, salads (store the salad and dressing separately so it doesn’t get soggy), soups and stews, and casseroles. Even a fruit crumble—have it with a dollop of plain yogurt instead of ice cream, and suddenly it’s breakfast.

HEALTH.COM: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME disability

Watch This Woman Take Her First Steps in Ten Years

With the help of a motorized exoskeleton, journalist Nikki Fox was able to stand and walk on her own

Journalist Nikki Fox, who serves as a disability correspondent for BBC News, was born with muscular dystrophy and hadn’t taken a step on her own in ten years. But in the video above, Fox was able to briefly walk again with the help of a device known as an exoskeleton, which was strapped to her body. The motorised robotic equipment, which she was able to control herself, allowed her to stand and take slow steps, without the aid of another person.

“My legs hadn’t been that straight since 1995,” Fox told the BBC. “What was quite unbelievable was how I felt afterwards. Standing for half an hour would usually be quite tough but it wasn’t.”

[BBC]

TIME European Union

European Court Rules That Obesity Could Be a Disability

The case was brought by a Danish man who weighs more than 350 pounds (160kg)

In a ruling delivered Thursday morning, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said “obesity can constitute a disability” for the purposes of equality at work legislation, the BBC reports.

The ECJ, Europe’s highest court, was asked earlier this year to consider the case of Karsten Kaltoft, a Danish childminder, who claimed he was fired by his local authority for being too overweight.

Judges said that if obesity could hinder “full and effective participation” at work then it could count as a disability. This means that if a person has a long-term impairment because of their obesity then they would be protected by disability legislation.

The ruling is binding across the E.U. but it is left up to the national courts to decide if someone’s obesity is severe enough to be classed as a disability. This is something the Danish court will now have to assess in Kaltoft’s case.

Important to the ruling is the European Court’s judgement that the origin of the disability did not matter, meaning that it is irrelevant if the person is obese because of overeating.

The judgement may mean that employers will have to start providing larger seats, special parking spaces and other facilities for obese workers.

[BBC]

TIME Developmental Disorders

8-Year-Old Raises More Than $1 Million to Help Cure His Friend’s Rare Disease

Dylan Siegel and Jonah Pournazarian Michael Smiy

Every cent made from Dylan’s book goes to trying to find a cure for his friend's disease

Some best friends will do anything for each other – even if it means raising more than $1 million.

In 2012, when Dylan Siegel, then 6, found out his best pal, Jonah Pournazarian, had a rare liver disorder called glycogen storage disease type 1B, he decided to write a book to help raise money for a cure.

Dylan describes his friendship with Jonah as “awesome as a chocolate bar,” so he called the book Chocolate Bar and started selling copies for $20 each, according to ABC.

To date, nearly 25,000 copies have been sold in all 50 states and more than 60 countries worldwide.

Jonah, now 9, is one of just 500 children in the world with the disease, which has no cure. He fights dangerously low blood sugar and has to be fed cornstarch and water every few hours through a feeding tube in his stomach. It’s the only treatment for a disease that, left untreated, can cause hypoglycemia, seizures and even death.

Every cent made from Dylan’s book is going to Dr. David Weinstein’s Florida lab, the largest clinical research program for the disease in the world.

The money raised has financed the hiring of a new geneticist and studies resulting in new gene-therapy treatments, according to ABC.

It has also kept the facility open and on track to find a cure within several years.

“It is now reality. It’s not just a dream that these children can be cured,” Dr. Weinstein told ABC affiliate KGO-TV in February.

“I am so happy that we finally reached my million-dollar goal,” Dylan said in a statement. “And that kids around the world have been inspired by my story. I will continue to raise money until Jonah’s disease is cured forever.”

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME global health

This Is Now the Average Life Expectancy Worldwide

Southern sub-Saharan Africa was the only region worldwide to have a decline in life expectancy

Life expectancy across the globe has increased by more than six years since 1990 to 71.5 years, according to a new study.

“The progress we are seeing against a variety of illnesses and injuries is good, even remarkable, but we can and must do even better,” said lead study author Christopher Murray, a University of Washington professor, in a press release.

The study, published Wednesday in the Lancet journal, showed declines in the number of deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease in high-income countries as well as in deaths from diarrhea and neonatal complications elsewhere. Both of these trends contributed to the overall decline. Importantly, medical funding for fighting infectious diseases has grown since 1990 and helped drive the improvement, according to Murray.

Still, despite the improvement, the number of deaths from a number of ailments increased. Perhaps most dramatically, deaths from HIV/AIDS joined the list of the top 10 causes of premature death. The number of annual deaths from the ailment rose from 2.07 million in 1990 to 2.63 million in 2013, the equivalent of a 344% increase in years of lost life. The increase in deaths from HIV/AIDS made southern sub-Saharan Africa the only region worldwide to experience a decline in life expectancy.

Other ailments that caused an increased loss of life include liver cancer caused by hepatitis C, which soared 125% since 1990, and deaths from disorders related to drug use, which increased by 63%.

TIME ebola

There Are 53 Drugs That Could Treat Ebola

University of Utah Researchers Work Toward Cure For Ebola Strains
A container holds a Peptide that contains a potential new drug candidates for testing against a part of Ebola that is vulnerable to drugs, at the University of Utah on Oct. 14, 2014 in Salt Lake City. George Frey—Getty Images

New research raises prospect of treatments to be found in already available drugs

Scientists have identified 53 existing drugs that could be effective in fighting Ebola, according to newly published research.

There is currently no vaccine or drug available to treat the disease, which is one of the primary reasons the virus has been able to infect 18,603 people so far, and kill 6,915. A vaccine is undergoing clinical trials in humans, but a drug to treat people who already have the disease is critically needed. The experimental drug ZMapp has been used on a handful of Ebola patients, but resources of it are exhausted and it has not undergone adequate testing.

Running against the clock, some groups of scientists have decided that one of the most efficient ways to go about tackling the task of developing and distributing an Ebola drug is by screening drug compounds already available to see if any of those compounds could be used to create an effective drug.

MORE: Scientists Explore 10,000 Compounds for an Ebola Drug

In a new study published in the Nature Press journal Emerging Microbes and Infections, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said they’ve identified 53 promising drug compounds. The team used high speed technology to scan through a library of 2,816 U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved compounds already used for other ailments. Their method, which uses a virus-like particle that contained Ebola proteins, was calibrated to identify drugs that could prevent Ebola from infecting human cells by 50%.

Among these 53 promising compounds are ones used in cancer drugs, antihistamines, antibiotics, and antidepressants.

The compounds will be tested in animals to see what effects they have on Ebola, as well as their side effects. If a drug is proven both safe and effective, the government may use it in Ebola zones.

As TIME reported in October, scientists at Emory University Hospital are taking a similar approach to their library of 10,000 drug compounds. They think it’s possible Ebola could be treated similarly to the the treatments they’ve developed for viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C.

TIME Parenting

Expectant Dads Experience Prenatal Hormone Changes Too

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Including a decrease in testosterone

Women aren’t the only ones who experience hormonal changes before having a baby. As it turns out, men also have some hormonal waves prior to becoming dads.

New research published in the American Journal of Human Biology looked at 29 couples expecting their first child. The researchers took salvia samples of the participants and measured their levels of the hormones testosterone, cortisol, estradiol, and progesterone. The couples’ hormones were measured at weeks 12, 20, 28, and 36 of pregnancy.

It’s long been proven that expectant women undergo hormonal changes, but less is known about the soon-to-be-papas. The new study shows that while women had increases in all four types of hormones, men had decreases in their testosterone and estradiol levels, but no significant changes in cortisol or progesterone.

It’s the first research to evidence that prenatal testosterone changes can occur in expectant fathers, though the changes are still small compared to those observed in women.

The researchers did not compare the couples to other non-expectant couples, so exactly how great these changes are compared to couples who aren’t expecting kids is undetermined. And scientists were unable to conclude why men experience these changes, though there are some speculations based on prior research.

For instance, prior studies have suggested that men’s hormones change after becoming fathers as they adopt more nurturing behaviors. Or that drops in testosterone may reflect sleep disruptions or disruptions in sexual activity due to having kids. Some of these same behaviors may happen during pregnancy too. The psychological, emotional and behavioral changes of new parenthood could also cause hormonal waves in expectant dads.

“It will be important for future research to determine whether the changes that we observed in men’s hormones reflect processes associated with fatherhood specifically, or long-term pair-bonding more generally,” the authors concluded. 

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TIME
TIME Crime

14 Charged in Deadly Meningitis Outbreak in 2012

(BOSTON) — In the biggest criminal case ever brought in the U.S. over contaminated medicine, 14 former owners or employees of a Massachusetts pharmacy were charged Wednesday in connection with a 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people.

The nationwide outbreak was traced to tainted drug injections manufactured by the now-closed New England Compounding Pharmacy of Framingham.

Barry Cadden, a co-founder of the business, and Glenn Adam Chin, a pharmacist who was in charge of the sterile room, were hit with the most serious charges, accused in a federal racketeering indictment of causing the deaths of 25 patients in seven states by “acting in wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood” of death or great bodily harm.

Among other things, Cadden, Chin and others are accused of using expired ingredients, failing to properly sterilize drugs and failing to test them to make sure they were pure. The other defendants were charged with such crimes as fraud and interstate sale of adulterated drugs.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said NECC was “filthy” and failed to comply with even basic health standards, and employees knew it. For example, she said, they falsified logs on when labs were cleaned.

“Production and profit were prioritized over safety,” Ortiz said.

More than 750 people in 20 states were sickened — about half of them with a rare fungal form of meningitis, the rest with joint or spinal infections — and 64 died. The steroids given were for medical purposes, not for bodybuilding; most patients received the injections for back pain.

In reaction to the outbreak, Congress last year increased federal oversight of so-called compounding pharmacies like NECC, which custom-mix medications in bulk and supply them directly to hospitals and doctors.

Linda Nedroscik of Howell, Michigan, said her husband, John, survived the tainted injection. But she said the 64-year-old “still struggles, has nightmares.”

“It’s hard to say it’s a relief because it doesn’t change anything for us in our physical lives,” she said of the indictment, “but it takes a burden off emotionally.”

Chin’s lawyer, Stephen Weymouth, said he was stunned that prosecutors charged his client with second-degree murder under the racketeering law.

“He feels hugely remorseful for everything that’s happened — for the injuries and the deaths — but he never intended to cause harm to anybody,” Weymouth said. “It seems to be a bit of an overreach.”

Messages were left for lawyers for 11 other defendants. Lawyers for two defendants could not immediately be located.

After the outbreak came to light, regulators found a host of potential contaminants at the pharmacy, including standing water, mold and dirty equipment. The business filed for bankruptcy after it was bombarded with hundreds of lawsuits from victims or their.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart Delery said the defendants showed “not only a reckless disregard for federal health and safety regulations, but also an extreme and appalling disregard for human life.”

“Every patient should have the peace of mind knowing that their medications are safe,” he said.

Gregory Conigliaro, another co-founder, was among 12 of the 14 arrested at their homes around the state. Chin had been charged with mail fraud in September.

All those charged were expected to make an initial court appearance later Wednesday.

NECC was founded in 1998 by brothers-in-law Cadden and Conigliaro. Cadden earned a pharmacy degree from the University of Rhode Island. Conigliaro is an engineer.

___

Associated Press Writer Jeff Karoub reported from Detroit.

TIME Obesity

Law Enforcement Is the Fattest Profession, Study Finds

Policeman in office, portrait
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Along with firefighters and security guards

Police officers, firefighters and security guards have the highest rates of obesity of all professions, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

According to the Journal, 40.7% of police, firefighters and security guards are obese. Other jobs with high obesity rates include clergy, engineers and truckers.

On the other side of the obesity scale is a grouping of economists, scientists and psychologists, with an obesity rate of 14.2%. Other professions with low obesity rates are athletes, actors and reporters.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

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