TIME Research

This Is How You Can Lose Weight Using Just Your Mind

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Tom Grill—Blend Images/Getty Images

It’s simple — just remember what you’ve already eaten and you feel less hungry

People may be able to control their hunger pangs (to an extent) if they try to remember the last food they’ve eaten, a psychologist has found.

Eric Robinson says psychological factors can impact how much you eat and believes appetite is formed in the mind as much as it is in the stomach, the BBC reports.

The University of Liverpool scientist studied people who suffer from anterograde amnesia and found that they still have a sensory memory of the food they have eaten, even though they have no conscious memory of it.

Similarly, those who were made to mediate on the food they’ve already eaten throughout the day felt less of a need to consume more.

Read more at the BBC.

TIME cities

New Orleans Bans Smoking in Bars and Casinos

smoking cigarette wrapped in money on ashtray
John Knil—Getty Images

The Big Easy becomes one of the last major American cities to pass a sweeping smoking ban

The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a ban on smoking in bars and gambling halls on Thursday.

The law will take effect in about three months, the Associated Press reports. While owners of bars and casinos expressed concerns that the ban would hurt business, city officials decided the health of musicians and others exposed to secondhand smoke while working in those establishments is paramount.

New Orleans, a major tourism hub known for its nightlife, is one of the last major American cities to allow people to smoke in bars. Logan Gaskill, a lawyer for a large casino next to the French Quarter, estimated at the meeting that revenues would decline 20% as a result from the ban, the AP reports.

But lawmakers were convinced by a teary speech from Councilman James Gray II, who read off the names of people he knew who died from lung-cancer. Another member, Jason Williams, said they had an obligation to protect “the heart and soul” of New Orleans, the musicians and barroom workers.

[AP]

TIME Laws

More States Considering Right-to-Die Laws After Brittany Maynard

Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of proposed legislation allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients during a news conference at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif.
Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of proposed legislation allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients during a news conference at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli—AP

California legislators just introduced a bill to let the terminally ill end their own lives

After Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last year, she decided to move from California, where she was born and raised, to Oregon. She chose it because Oregon was one of just five states in the nation that allowed Maynard to obtain medication to end her own life.

Since Maynard’s death in November, four states and Washington, D.C., have introduced so-called right-to-die legislation, including the one she chose to leave.

“The fact that Brittany Maynard was a Californian suffering from an incurable, irreversible illness who then had to leave the state to ease her suffering was simply appalling, simply unacceptable,” says California Senator Lois Wolk, who along with Senator Bill Monning, both Democrats, have co-authored a bill giving terminally ill patients with six months to live the ability to obtain life-ending medication.

(MORE: See Which States Allow End-of-Life Treatment)

The bill, which would require two independent physicians to determine that patients are mentally competent to make an end-of-life decision, is largely modeled after Oregon’s 1997 Death With Dignity law, which was the first state measure to allow terminal patients to end their lives. That law has become a template for other states considering similar legislation. According to the Oregon Public Health Division, 1,173 people have had end-of-life medication prescribed to them as of 2013; 752 have actually chosen to ingest it.

Only two other states have passed right-to-die legislation — Washington and Vermont — while judges in New Mexico and Montana have effectively legalized it by saying there is nothing barring doctors from prescribing life-ending medication.

For years, the so-called right-to-die movement was most associated with Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan physician known as Dr. Death for participating in dozens of physician-assisted suicides, one of which led to a conviction of second-degree murder. Maynard offered a far more sympathetic face for the movement. A 29-year-old newlywed who was diagnosed with brain cancer on Jan. 1, 2014, Maynard used her story to advocate for so-called death-with-dignity laws while publicly discussing her symptoms and plans for her last few weeks. She died Nov. 1 after taking doctor-prescribed barbiturates.

Since then, legislators from 14 states have either introduced or pledged to put forward right-to-die bills, according to Compassion & Choices, a national organization advocating death with dignity. The group says it conducted surveys showing that two-thirds of Californians support end-of-life legislation.

“The case of Brittany Maynard has brought this into focus for many Californians,” Monning says. “There’s a changed public attitude and increased awareness, and we think the time is right for California.”

(MORE: Death Is Not Only for the Dying)

Wolk acknowledges that actually getting the bill passed, however, will be a “heavy lift.” The measure could find support among some Democrats and libertarian-leaning conservatives, who often favor letting individuals make their own end-of-life decisions. But resistance will be strong from social conservatives in both parties. The Catholic Church, in particular, has long led the fight against similar measures around the nation. The church has already hired a lobbying firm from Sacramento to fight the bill, according to the Los Angeles Times. The American Medical Association, which believes that doctors shouldn’t be involved in life-ending treatment, could provide another obstacle.

Wolk expects the bill will make it out of committee and reach the Senate floor, but will have a tough time passing both houses of the legislature. It’s also unclear whether Governor Jerry Brown would sign it if it reached his desk. The onetime Jesuit seminarian has not publicly addressed the issue, according to the San Jose Mercury News. During his first stint as governor in 1976, Brown signed a law that gave terminally ill patients the right to end life-sustaining treatment if their death was imminent, the first of its kind in the nation

If the bill doesn’t pass, however, the issue will likely make its way directly to California voters. Compassion & Choices is already laying the groundwork to get it on the 2016 ballot as a referendum.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of states that have introduced legislation since Maynard’s death. Four states have introduced end-of-life bills, including Washington, D.C.

TIME global health

What the Gates Foundation Has Achieved, 15 Years On

Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived
Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived Scott Olson; Getty Images

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Much has been done over the foundation's first decade and a half — with more still to do

There are a whole lot of things you may or may not get to do in the next 15 years, but a few of them you can take for granted: eating, for one. Having access to a bank, for another. And then there’s the simple business of not dying of a preventable or treatable disease. Good for you—and good for most of us in the developed world. But the developed world isn’t the whole story.

The bad—and familiar—news is that developing nations lag far behind in income, public health, food production, education and more. The much, much better news is that all of that is changing—and fast. The just-released Annual Letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes a good case for hoping there is still more to come.

The 2015 letter represents something of a threshold moment for the Foundation. It was in 2000 that the Gateses began their work and set themselves a very public 15-year deadline: show meaningful progress in narrowing the health, income and resource gap between the world’s privileged and underprivileged people, or be prepared to explain why not. So far, nobody—neither the Gates Foundation nor the numerous other global health groups like the World Health Organization and UNICEF—have much explaining to do.

The number of children under five who die each year worldwide has been nearly cut in half, from a high of nearly 13 million to 6.5 million today. Polio has been chased to the very brink of extinction, and elephantiasis, river blindness and Guinea worm are close behind. Drought-tolerant seeds are dramatically increasing agricultural yields; economies in the once-desperate countries in sub-Saharan Africa are now matching the developed world in rate of annual growth. Up to 70% of people across the developing world now have access to wireless service, making mobile banking possible—a luxury in the West but a necessity in places there is no other banking infrastructure.

The trick of course is that progress isn’t the same as success. The 13 million babies who were dying a year in the years before the Foundation began, for example, factored out to a horrific 35,000 every single day. Slashing that in half leaves you with 17,500—still an intolerable figure. For that reason and others, the Gateses are turning the 15-year chronometer back to zero, setting targets—and framing ways to achieve them—for 2030.

The most pressing concern involves those 17,500 kids. The overwhelming share of the recent reduction in mortality is due to better delivery of vaccines and treatments for diseases that are vastly less common or even nonexistent in much of the developed world—measles, pneumonia, malaria, cholera and other diarrheal ills. Those are still the cause of 60% of the remaining deaths. But the other 40%—or 2.6 million children—involve neonates, babies who die in the first 30 days of life and often on the very first day. The interventions in these cases can be remarkably simple.

“The baby must be kept warm immediately after birth, which too often doesn’t happen,” Melinda Gates told TIME. “This is basic skin-to-skin contact. Breast-feeding exclusively is the next big thing, as is basic cord care. The umbilical cord must be cut cleanly and kept clean to prevent infections.”

HIV may similarly be brought to heel, if not as easily as neonate mortality. A vaccine or a complete cure—one that would simply eliminate the virus from the body the way an antibiotic can eliminate a bacterium—remain the gold standards. But in much of the world, anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have served as what is known as a functional cure, allowing an infected person to live healthily and indefinitely while always carrying a bit of the pathogen. Gates looks forward to making ARVs more widely available, as well as to the development of other treatment protocols that we may not even be considering now.

“We’re already moving toward an HIV tipping point,” she says, “when the number of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa who are in treatment will exceed the number of people becoming newly infected.”

Food security is another achievable goal. Even as Africa remains heavily agrarian—70% of people in the sub-Saharan region are farmers compared to 2% in the U.S.—yields remain low. An acre of farmland here in America may produce 150 bushels of corn; in Africa it’s just 30. The problem is largely rooted in our increasingly unstable climate, with severe droughts burning out harvests or heavy rainstorms destroying them.

“Millions of people eat rice in Africa,” says Gates, “and rice has to be kept much wetter than other crops. At the equator it’s staying drier longer, but when the rains do come, they hit harder.”

In the case of rice and corn and all other crops, the answer is seeds engineered for the conditions in which they will have to grow, not for the more forgiving farmlands of the West. In Tanzania, site-specific seed corn has been made available and is already changing lives. “That seed,” one farmer told Gates when she visited in 2012, “made the difference between hunger and prosperity.”

Finally comes banking. Across Africa, only 37% of people are part of the formal banking system, but up to 90%, depending on the area, are part of the M-Pesa network—a mobile banking link accessible via cellphone. The Pesa part of the name is Swahili for money and the M is simply for mobile.

“Today too many people put their money in a cow or in jewelry,” Gates says. “But it’s impossible to take just a little of that money out. If someone gets sick or you have another emergency, you simply sell the cow.” Mobile banking changes all of that, making it much easier to save—and in a part of the world where even $1 set aside a day can mean economic security, that’s a very big deal.

Nothing about the past 15 years guarantees that the next 15 will see as much progress. The doctrine of low-hanging fruit means that in almost all enterprises, the early successes come easier. But 15 years is a smart timeframe. It’s far enough away that it creates room for different strategies to be tried and fail before one succeeds, but it’s close enough that you still can’t afford to waste the time you have. Wasting time, clearly, is not something the folks at the Gates Foundation have been doing so far, and they likely won’t in the 15 years to come either.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why You Might Not Want To Mix Alcohol and Energy Drinks

370699 02: A shot of vodka is poured into a "Red Bull" energy drink in this 1999 photo taken in Los Angeles, CA. The mixed drink keep club goers buzzed but wide awake while partying. They''re calling this beverage "ecstasy in a can." (Photo by Evan Kafka/Liaison)
Evan Kafka—Getty Images

Combining the two seems to make you want to drink more and mask signs of inebriation

For years, research has suggested that mixing alcohol and heavily-caffeinated energy drinks could have negative health effects. Combining the two seems to make you want to drink more and mask signs of inebriation.

The combo’s potential negative consequences aren’t just a personal risk, but a public health one, suggests a new paper in the journal Advances in Nutrition.

“When people mix energy drinks with alcohol, people drink more than they would if they had just consumed alcohol, which is associated with a cascade of problems,” says paper author Cecile Marczinski, associate professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University.

The increased likelihood of engaging in risky behavior, particularly drunk driving, is chief among the public health concerns, Marczinski says. The caffeine rush in energy drinks makes a drinker look and feel more balanced and coordinated than their drinking would suggest, leading some drinkers to believe they’re not actually drunk. In one study Marczinski cited, people who combined energy drinks and alcohol were four times more likely to think they could drive home than their counterparts who drank alcohol alone. The effects of the energy drink may also make it less obvious to police officers that a driver is drunk, making the officer less likely to breathalyze.

Other public health concerns that stem from mixing alcohol and energy drinks include adolescent brain damage, more emergency department visits and increased hospitalizations, the review says.

Even though the widespread popularization of energy drinks is a relatively new phenomenon, some jurisdictions have worked to address the growing public health issues, Marczinski says. Some parts of Australia ban the sale of energy drinks in bars after midnight. “You can have really dramatic solutions or minor steps in the right direction,” she says.

University of Connecticut Health Center researcher Steven Meredith, who has studied the health effects of the mixed drinks but was not involved in the review, says that more research is needed to fully understand how energy drinks and alcohol interact with the body together. Still, taking a more active approach to public policy makes sense, he says, given the reported risks.

“If you’re in public policy and health care, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says.

TIME Research

What to Know About the Science of E-Cigarettes

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

A guide to understanding conflicting and ongoing research

Two Columbia University professors warned in a new study Thursday that the health fears over electronic cigarettes are hindering research. The very same day, another new study showed that smoking e-cigs, or “vaping,” can produce cancer-causing formaldehyde.

Clearly there’s some disagreement among scientists about the risks and benefits of a product that’s growing in popularity. Here’s what you need to know about the latest science.

What’s with the latest disagreement?

Columbia public health professors Amy Fairchild and Ronald Bayer argue in Science magazine that the staunchest opponents of electronic cigarettes are so concerned about the potential downsides that they advocate for an anti-e-cigarette regulatory and research approach that may be bad for public health. This approach of “deep precaution,” they argue, “has served as a kind of trump argument, hostile to the notion of trade-offs, seeing in them perilous compromise. Such a posture does not serve either science or policy well.”

MORE The Future of Smoking

It “may be years before the disagreements over the evidence” about the effects of electronic cigarettes can be resolved, Fairchild and Bayer wrote. On the one hand, electronic cigarettes may serve as gateway drugs for young people to start smoking cigarettes, and “dual” use of electronic cigarettes with tobacco cigarettes may stop some smokers from quitting. Electronic cigarettes may also carry unknown health consequences of their own. On the other hand, they may provide harm reduction for people who have been unable to quit any other way.

Given these two competing possibilities, the authors argued that the best formula for public health is to acknowledge the possibility for costs and benefits and to push for a regulatory scheme that is flexible enough to account for both outcomes. It is better to make public policy and execute scientific research under the assumption that e-cigarettes could bring good as well as bad.

But also on Thursday, the New England Journal of Medicine published a new study reporting that chemicals inside e-cigarettes—like propylene glycol and glycerol—can produce a type of the cancer-causing chemical called formaldehyde when heated during the vaping process. The researchers report that when testing samples of the aerosol from vaped e-cigs, they found that the e-cigs can contain formaldehyde-releasing agents slightly different from regular formaldehyde, and that the levels are especially high when a user vapes at high voltages. Scientists don’t yet know if formaldehyde-releasing agents carry the same risk as pure formaldehyde, but the researchers said in their report that if they assume the substances do carry the same risks, then long-term vaping could be associated with a significantly higher risk for cancer compared to long-term smoking. The researchers said formaldehyde-releasing agents may actually burrow into the respiratory tract more efficiently than regular formaldehyde, though the observation wasn’t confirmed.

Are there other reasons experts are concerned?

There’s also debate over the safety of the liquid nicotine inside e-cigarettes. In April 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing what they called a “dramatic” rise in e-cigarette-related calls to U.S. poison centers. Calls went from one a month in September 2010 to 215 calls a month in February 2014, and more than half of the calls involved children age five and under. Forty-two percent involved people age 20 and older. Symptoms of liquid nicotine ingestion are known to be vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.

Researchers are also wary of the long term effects of inhaling propylene glycol, one of the main ingredients in e-cigarettes. The jury is still out, but some physicians are concerned. “As for long-term effects, we don’t know what happens when you breathe the vapor into the lungs regularly,” Thomas Glynn, the director of science and trends at the American Cancer Society, told ABC News. “No one knows the answer to that.”

Are they really attracting young people?

Several recent—but fairly small—studies say yes. A December 2o14 study in the journal Pediatrics surveyed 1,941 Hawaii high school students and found that about 17% of the high schoolers smoked e-cigarettes only, 12% smoked both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, and only 3% smoked conventional cigarettes. The findings suggested that kids who smoked e-cigarettes scored lower on outside risk factors to pick up a conventional smoking habit. “The fact that e-cigarette only users were intermediate in risk status between nonusers and dual users raises the possibility that e-cigarettes are recruiting medium-risk adolescents, who otherwise would be less susceptible to tobacco product use,” the authors wrote. Numbers released in 2013 from the National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that the percentage of middle school and high school students who have tried e-cigarettes doubled from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012.

What’s the argument in favor of e-cigarettes?

Some smokers use e-cigarettes to help them curb their traditional cigarette habit, or even quit. An August 2014 study that surveyed over 20,000 Americans showed that among adults who used a product to help them quit smoking, 57% chose e-cigarettes. That’s compared to the 39% who used prescription drugs like Chantix and the 39% who used other over-the-counter methods like patches or nicotine gum. Another study from July 2014, which reviewed 80 studies on e-cigarettes’ safety and their effects on users, revealed that not only can e-cigarettes help smokers quit, but they are less harmful to smokers and bystanders’ health compared to regular cigarettes.

What’s the FDA doing about it?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes, though the agency has proposed a rule that would give it more regulatory power over e-cigarettes but that has not yet been implemented. The FDA has suggested a ban on sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and admits that there is a lot consumers don’t know about the product like whether they attract kids and teens or just how much nicotine is inhaled when a person vapes.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Drink Almond Milk?

Without some of milk's major nutrients, is almond milk worth drinking?

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

almond milk
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

4/5 experts say yes.

This one’s no cold case. Almond milk is a worthy addition to your fridge, according to most of these experts.

The darling of the plant milk substitutes, almond milk is an obvious choice for vegans and people with lactose allergies, and almond milk is 50% lower in calories than cow’s milk, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian and manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, making it a good for people trying to lose weight. Because it’s not an animal product, it has no cholesterol.

But even though it can stand in for cow’s milk in smoothies, oatmeal and cereal, it’s not milk’s nutritional clone.

MORE Milk-Off! The Real Skinny on Soy, Almond and Rice

“Unlike dairy milk and soy milk, almond milk is naturally low in protein,” says Alicia Romano, registered dietitian at Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center. While a glass of cow milk or soy milk has 8 grams of protein, a glass of almond milk has a single measly gram. That may seem strange, since almonds are little ovals of protein: an ounce of the nuts has 6 grams. But its “milk” version is mostly water, and most of the nutrient-dense almonds get strained out of the final product. You don’t get as much calcium, either, unless it’s fortified.

That’s part of the confusion around a product like almond milk, which gives you neither the well-known nutritional benefits of almonds (protein and good fat) nor milk (calcium). “I’m staunchly against plant-based foods disguising themselves as [animal-derived] options,” says Jo-Ann Jolly, registered dietitian at American University. “A lot of times this process can leave foods with more additives and sometimes more calories, fat and sugar.” If you like the taste of almond milk, then by all means drink it, she says, but make sure to read labels. Unsweetened almond milk lets you avoid the surge of added sugar in the flavored kinds, says Outi Mäkinen, a researcher who’s studied plant milks like almond milk.

MORE How to Make Milk Out of Nuts in 5 Easy Steps

Almond milk isn’t for everyone, says Dr. Julie Lemale, a researcher at Hôpital Trousseau in France. Her study last year suggested that substituting milk with alternative milk beverages—including almond milk—in infants under a year old may result in nutritional deficiencies and the growth problems that can come with them.

If you’re not an infant, though, almond milk’s a safe bet. And if you find the non-sugary version delicious, you may have found your perfect non-dairy cereal match.

Read next: Should I Drink Coconut Water?

TIME

This Is How Much Exercise Experts Really Think You Need

People Running Jogging on Treadmill at Health Club Gym
Shane KatoGetty Images

Do your eyes glaze over when you hear how much exercise you should get each week? That looming 150-minute figure is the equivalent of 21 micro workouts a week—and it seems like nobody has time for that. This is the problem with our exercise recommendations, argues a new analysis published in The BMJ: They’re just set far too high to motivate the people who need them the most.

That’s the argument of Philipe de Souto Barreto, a researcher at University Hospital of Toulouse in France and author of the new paper. “Getting inactive people to do a little bit of physical activity, even if they don’t meet the recommendations, might provide greater population health gains,” he writes.

It’s not that the recommendations are off for optimal health. 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, which the World Health Organization sets as its target, is a great goal that’s been shown to reduce risk for all kinds of diseases and death, Barreto says. But other data shows that gentler goals can also provide important health benefits.

One study of more than 250,000 older adults found that getting less than an hour of moderate physical activity each week was linked to a 15% drop in death. Barreto also cites a review of 254 articles looking at the link between exercise and disease reduction, which found that the relationship between the two is dose-dependent. In other words, it’s not an all or nothing affair: even minor shifts can help people who don’t get enough exercise. Another analysis of studies found that when people walk just 1-74 minutes a week, they have a 19% reduced risk of death, compared to the most sedentary people.

“Achieving target physical activity recommendations should remain as a goal but not the core public health message surrounding physical activity,” Barreto writes.

Read next: 4 People Who Might Be Making You Fat

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

There’s Now Coffee to Help You Fall Asleep

coffee
Getty Images

A new product mixes coffee with a sleep-inducing herb

Imagine brewing coffee as a nightcap. That’s what Deland Jessop says he and his wife have begun to do with Counting Sheep Coffee—a new product designed to allow coffee lovers to drink a cup before bed without being kept awake for hours.

“Instead of a glass of wine, we’ll brew up a cup of coffee instead,” said Jessop, who launched the company in 2013.

When his wife complained that she couldn’t enjoy coffee after 3 p.m., Jessop turned his home into a makeshift lab to search for a possible solution. After experimenting with a variety of herbs and supplements, he says he stumbled upon valerian—a plant that has been used as a mild sedative in Europe for centuries. He mixed it with decaf to mask the pungent smell, and sleep coffee was born.

Jessop notes that Counting Sheep Coffee is a food product, not a drug to help with sleep. Valerian is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food ingredient.

Experts don’t know exactly why the plant such a potent sleep-inducer, but there’s little known risk of side effects (other than the obvious drowsiness), says University of California San Francisco associate professor Stephen Bent. “In the studies that have been done, it’s been show to be safe,” he says. “It has a long traditional history of being used to induce sleep.”

The product first appeared at Bed, Bath & Beyond in 2013, and is now sold in several regional supermarkets.

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