TIME Diet/Nutrition

There’s a Record Number of Organic Farms and Processing Facilities in the U.S.

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Danny Kim for TIME

The number of organic producers in the U.S. has risen more than 5% in a year

There are nearly 20,000 certified organic operations in the U.S., which is a new record, officials announced on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) counted 19,474 organic farms, ranches and processing facilities, up more than 5% from last year and 250% from 2002, when officials began tracking certified organic producers. Worldwide, there are more than 27,800 organic producers.

“As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be.”

Recently, the USDA put forward $66.5 million in funding to support specialty crops and organic food production. The USDA is also creating an organic operations database that will streamline organic certification processes, and keep updated information about certificated facilities in the U.S. The USDA says the database will likely roll out in September.

Other recent data shows that U.S. consumers are continuing to buy organic produce even despite rising prices, which is good news for producers.

TIME medicine

The Scary Connection Between Snoring and Dementia

Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and snoring, can have harmful effects on the brain over the long term

If you don’t snore, you likely know someone who does. Between 19% and 40% of adults snore when they sleep, and that percentage climbs even higher, particularly for men, as we age. It’s a nuisance for bed partners, but researchers say we shouldn’t be so quick to write off snoring or other forms of disrupted breathing while asleep as mere annoyances; instead, they could be affecting the brain, according to new research.

Snoring is a form of sleep apnea, in which people stop breathing for a few seconds or several minutes dozens of times in an hour. Any disruption of breathing during sleep can affect the brain, say researchers of a new study published in the journal Neurology. They found that people with sleep apnea tended to develop memory problems and other signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) earlier than people without such sleep disorders.

MORE The Power of Sleep

Ricardo Osorio, MD, research assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Center for Brain Health, and his colleagues studied 2,000 people enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)—a population of 55 to 75 year olds, some of whom are cognitively normal, some who have mild cognitive impairment and others who have Alzheimer’s dementia. Everyone was asked about their snoring or sleep apnea, and researchers followed up every six months for two to three years to record any changes in their cognitive status.

Those who reported having sleep apnea or snoring tended to develop signs of mild cognitive impairment, including memory lapses and slower speed on cognitive skills, about 12 years earlier on average than those who didn’t report any sleep-disordered breathing. Mild cognitive impairment often precedes Alzheimer’s dementia, but not all people who develop MCI go on to get Alzheimer’s. The connection between disrupted sleep breathing and MCI remained strong even after Osorio accounted for the effects of Alzheimer’s-related genes, gender, education, depression and heart disease risk factors, all of which have been associated with increased risk of cognitive decline.

MORE Alzheimer’s Linked to Sleeping Pills and Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Osorio also saw a connection between sleep apnea or snoring and Alzheimer’s dementia, but it wasn’t as robust as the link to MCI. That might be because other studies have found that not only are sleep disorders a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, but they are also a symptom of the degenerative brain disease—so those who already developed Alzheimer’s dementia may not have been accurately reporting their sleep habits.

Osorio is careful not to implicate all snoring as a precursor to memory problems or Alzheimer’s. But particularly in the elderly, he says doctors should consider the potential effect that disrupted breathing during sleep can have on the brain. While it’s not clear how sleep disorders might be increasing the risk of MCI or Alzheimer’s, it’s possible that the cumulate effects of even the short periods when the person isn’t breathing could deprive brain neurons of critical oxygen, and Alzheimer’s has been linked to slower or abnormal blood flow caused by hypertension and high cholesterol levels. Other studies have also shown that the protein responsible for Alzheimer’s, amyloid, tends to build up during the day when the nerves are active and decline at night during deep sleep. If people are being roused from deep sleep by their apnea or snoring, then they aren’t enjoying prolonged periods of low amyloid production, so the substance can build up and potentially form plaques.

MORE Here’s How Much Experts Think You Should Sleep Every Night

Osorio also found that it’s possible to counteract some of the effects of sleep apnea or snoring. He also studied people who used a device to prevent apnea, known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which keeps airways open during sleep. Even though they snored or had sleep apnea, people who used the device developed MCI or Alzheimer’s at the same rate as those who didn’t have these sleep problems. CPAP machines are cumbersome and uncomfortable to use, and many people drop them after a few weeks. But, says Osorio, they may have more reason to stick with them now. “A lot of people don’t use them because they see no benefits,” he says, “but if they know it can improve their memory, they may definitely try to do better.”

Read next: 7 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

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TIME Healthcare

Boy of ‘Success Kid’ Meme Fundraises For Father’s Kidney Transplant

The GoFundMe campaign has already raised over $86,000

If you’ve spent time on the Internet, you’re probably familiar with the “Success Kid” meme: A young baby looking confident with a fist full of sand. As it turns out, memes are real people—who face real problems.

The child behind “Success Kid” is 8-year-old Sammy Griner, and his father is in need of a kidney transplant. The Griner family recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the medical bills. The family was asking for around $75,000 and has already surpassed that goal. According to ABC News, the site reached about $9,000 in just five days. Currently, funds are at over $86,000 in just a week.

Sammy’s mom, Laney Griner, told ABC News that while at first she wasn’t happy about a photo from her son at the beach had gone viral, today she’s happy it happened. “By now, it’s just out there. What am I going to do? At least it’s positive,” she said. “Without that happening, how much could I get this recognition about my husband’s kidney transplant?”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Baby Food Recalled for Containing Glass

Beech-Nut Nutrition has recalled approximately 1,920 lb. of baby food

A baby-food company has recalled around 1,920 lb. of its product due to possible contamination with small pieces of glass, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The company, Beech-Nut Nutrition, is recalling its “Stage 2 Beech-Nut Classics sweet potato & chicken” baby food in 4-oz. glass jars. The baby food was made on Dec. 12, 2014, and the recall applies to food expiring December 2016. The company learned of the problem when a customer reported a small piece of glass in their baby food, and the USDA notes that a consumer reported an oral injury from the product.

“Outside of this single report, we have no indication that any other jar of our Classics Stage 2 Sweet Potato & Chicken is affected, but as a company of parents and families we are acting with an abundance of caution,” the company said in a statement posted to its website. “The quality and safety of our products is our number one priority. We know we have not met the expectations of parents who rely on Beech-Nut for quality nutrition for their babies and toddlers in this case, and for that we apologize.”

People who have bought the affected product can return the baby food to the store they purchased it from for a refund or exchange.

The recalled baby food contained the product numbers “12395750815” through “12395750821.” It also contains the inspection code “P-68A.” Customers can get more information on the Beech-Nut Nutrition website.

TIME Research

You Asked: Are the Honeybees Still Disappearing?

You Asked: Are Honeybees Still Disappearing?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Beekeepers continue to grapple with historically high death rates. And now something’s up with the queens.

From almonds to cherries, dozens of food crops are partially or totally dependent on honeybee pollination. And while media attention has waned, there’s still reason to worry about the country’s smallest and most indispensable farm workers.

Bee researchers first reported massive die-offs back in the 1990s. But the plight of the honeybee didn’t truly buzz into the national consciousness until the spring of 2013, when data revealed the average beekeeper had lost 45% of her colonies the previous winter. A mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) further stoked the fires of public interest.

Jump to 2015. While last winter’s bee death data won’t be published for a few more weeks, things appear to be “status quo,” says Dr. Greg Hunt, a honeybee expert at Purdue University. Unfortunately, the status quo is grim. “We’ve been seeing about 30% loss in an average winter,” Hunt says. “The winter before last was particularly bad and got a lot of attention, but things have been bad for a while.”

Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp—a University of Maryland entomologist who helps collect and publish the winter death data each spring—says there are three “primary drivers” of honeybee loss: The varroa mite, pesticides and poor nutrition. He doesn’t hesitate when asked to name the largest threat to bees: “I’d get rid of the varroa first.”

Varroa mites, properly (and frighteningly) named Varroa destructor, likely migrated to the U.S. sometime in the 1980s. They attach to a honeybee’s body and suck its blood, which kills many bees and spreads disease to others. The varroa can jump from one colony to another, wiping out whole populations of honeybees, vanEngelsdorp explains. There are treatments that combat the varroa. But many small-scale beekeepers don’t use them. “That’s bad, because they can spread mites to neighboring colonies,” he adds.

Of the two other major bee-killers vanEngelsdorp listed, pesticides have arguably gotten the most press—especially a commonly used category called neonicotinoids. While considered safe for humans, research suggests neonicotinoids may be extremely harmful to bees and many other insects, and so have been banned in some European countries. But the amount these chemicals contribute to bee deaths and colony collapse disorder is still debated. “We don’t find levels of neonicotinoids that are indicative of widespread exposure or harm,” vanEngelsdorp says.

The third problem—poor nutrition—is likely the most confounding of the honeybee’s enemies.

“Bees need a varied diet of different pollens in order to grow into strong, healthy workers,” explains Dr. Heather Mattila, a honeybee biologist at Wellesley College. Unfortunately, a country once filled with meadows of diverse, pollen-packed wildflowers is now blanketed by crops, manicured lawns, and mown fields barren of pollen sources. “A green space can be a green desert if it doesn’t have flowering plants that are bee-friendly,” Mattila adds.

Combine a restricted diet with environmental factors like extremely cold winters and scorching summers, and stressed honeybee colonies are less able to resist the ravages of mites, pesticides, viruses and other potential causes of colony collapse disorder.

To fill nutrition gaps, beekeepers give their wares pollen supplements. Along with tactics like colony splitting, keepers can restore their bee supplies quickly during the spring and summer months. But Hunt says the cost to do this is large—and growing larger. “As long as beekeepers are willing to put more money and hard labor into it, we can come back and rebuild our colonies and numbers,” he explains. “But whether this is all sustainable is an open question.”

Mattila calls this a “Band-Aid,” not a cure. “I think we’re making the best of a tough situation,” she says. Both she and Hunt applaud companies and localities that have started letting wildflowers grow along the sides of highways or under rural power lines—places that used to be mown and sprayed with herbicide. The federal government has also taken steps to protect lands that offer honeybees (and lots of other insects) the sustenance they need. Mattila says every American can help these efforts by planting flowers and avoiding chemical treatments.

But she mentions another emerging concern when it comes to the future of America’s honeybees: The strange, abrupt deaths of many bee queens. “When I started working with bees 18 years ago, we’d replace living queens every two years,” she recalls. “Now queens die after half a summer. Nobody is really clear on why.”

The “Band-Aid” she mentioned might already be coming off.

Read next: You Asked: Do Fruit Flies Come From Inside Fruit?

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TIME apps

7 Exercise Apps For People Who Hate Working Out

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Antonio Saba—Getty Images

Whether you're motivated by money, competition or a simple push notification, there's an app to help you get moving

Looking to get in shape for summer? Fitness may be its own reward, but these seven apps can sweeten the deal by prodding, encouraging and even paying users to roll off of that couch and unleash their inner gym bunnies — or just move a bit more. No pressure.

Human

Human can track a whole range of movements, in and out of doors, whether the user is pounding the pavement or dancing alone in front of the mirror. Any activity short of shifting about in a chair counts toward a daily goal of 30 minutes in motion (busybodies can revise their goal upwards to 60 or 90 minutes). On those occasional inert days, the app automatically prods the user to get moving. It’s a great starter app for anyone who wants to get active, but doesn’t want to commit to a single, repetitive fitness routine.

Gympact

It pays to workout with Gympact, literally. A community of users bet $5 to $10 that they’ll stick to their weekly exercise routine. Those who break their pact automatically lose money, which is disbursed to those who uphold their end of the bargain. The app tracks progress toward your weekly goals using the phone’s motion sensor for movement and GPS for gym visits. With payouts ranging from $0.30 to $5, the carrot doesn’t quite match the stick. Then again, it’s one of the only workout apps to brandish a carrot and a stick in the first place.

Fitocracy

Fitocracy adds a competitive twist to the workout routine, awarding points for each recorded workout, badges for significant milestones and bragging rights on a social network of more than one million users (including Arnold Schwarzenegger). If points, public glory and a loose affiliation with the Terminator aren’t motivation enough, users can also hire a personal trainer for coaching and nutritional advice at $1 a day.

Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K may sound like an ambitious goal for anyone on the couch-end of the spectrum, but this app’s training regimen starts easy and gradually ratchets up the run time from one training session to the next. Audio cues from a personal trainer prompt the user to push just a little bit longer than the previous session. Stick to the program, and novice runners can complete a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) circuit within nine weeks.

RockMyRun

RockMyRun arranges music mixes by tempo, so that the beat falls roughly in line with your running pace, whether its an easy jog (120 beats per minute) or a hard run (150 beats per minute). Android users can manually change the tempo, but iPhone users can take advantage of the latest feature: tempos that automatically sync up to footfalls or heartbeats.

Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout

Ever since a groundbreaking fitness study found that 7 minutes of exercise could yield impressive results, there has been a veritable explosion of 7-minute workout apps. Johnson & Johnson whipped up the cleanest looking interface. Reading the instructions is the easy part — actually following through on the high-intensity workout, not so much. On the upside, the end is always seven minutes in sight.

Type n Walk

The absolute last refuge for texting addicts, Type n Walk uses the smartphone camera to display the pavement immediately in front of you in real-time. Compose texts or emails against this moving backdrop. “This combined with your peripheral vision is just enough visual information to help you avoid obstacles,” the app makers say. Test their claim at your own risk.

Read next: The 10 Essential Rules of Gym Etiquette

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TIME neuroscience

Alzheimer’s May Be Caused by Misfiring Immune System, Study Suggests

Breakthrough may lead to innovative approaches to treatment

New research suggests that deprivation of an amino acid called arginine may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease — a finding that could help usher in new treatment strategies for patients suffering from the debilitating illness.

A team at Duke University focusing on the immune system found that cells designed to protect the brain from infection will uncharacteristically consume arginine during the early stages of Alzheimer’s, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Our approach is recognized as unique and opens new avenues to think about what causes Alzheimer’s disease and new ways to treat the disease,” senior author Dr. Carol Colton told TIME.

The team was also able to block the arginine consumption process using a drug called difluoromethylornithine, which is used to treat cancer. But according to Colton, they eventually need to find a more suitable agent.

Nevertheless, the mice that underwent the therapy performed better on memory tests.

“The response to this potential new mechanism … is favorable,” Colton said. “[We are] cautiously optimistic.”

The next step for researchers will be to test older mice that already have an advanced form of Alzheimer’s.

The study was published in the April 15 issue of Journal of Neuroscience.

In 2013, Alzheimer’s affected as many as 5 million Americans and in 2050 the number is projected to rise to 14 million people, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

TIME Family

America’s First All-Girl Quintuplets Born in Texas Hospital

Courtesy of Adam Busby

All five are healthy and require only "modest" breathing support

America is welcoming its first known set of all-girl quintuplets.

The quints—Olivia, Ava, Hazel, Parker and Riley—were delivered via C-section last week at the Woman’s Hospital of Texas, the hospital’s CEO announced in a statement Tuesday. The girls, who Dr. Jayne Finkowski-Rivera, a medical director who assisted during their delivery, said are receiving “only modest support of their breathing,” are the world’s first set of all-female quints since 1969, the hospital said.

The parents, Danielle and Adam Busby, have been documenting the experience on their blog, where they’ve posted photos and videos over the last several months. The quintuplets—and their big sister, Blayke—were born by intrauterine insemination (IUI) pregnancies, Danielle Busby wrote online.

The National Center for Health Statistics’ latest data indicate that quintuplets are extremely rare, with 66 reported sets of five or more babies in 2013.

TIME Heart Disease

What Divorce Does to Women’s Heart Health

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When it comes to the fallout from a divorce, one spouse is harmed more by it’s biological and psychological effects on the heart

Dissolving a marriage is hard on everyone, but researchers say the psychological stress of a divorce can have serious physical effects on the heart, especially for women.

Women who divorced at least once were 24% more likely to experience a heart attack compared to women who remained married, and those divorcing two or more times saw their risk jump to 77%. In the study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, Matthew Dupre of Duke University and his colleagues found that men weren’t at similar risk. Men only saw their heart attack chances go up if they divorced two or more times compared to men who didn’t split with their spouses. If men remarried, their heart risk did not go up, while for women who remarried, their chances of having a heart attack remained slightly higher, at 35%, than that of divorced women.

MORE: Divorce More Likely When Wife Falls Ill

These findings remained strong even after Dupre’s team adjusted for other potential contributors to heart attack, including age, social factors such as changes in occupation and job status and health insurance coverage, and physiological factors including body mass index, hypertension and diabetes. Previous studies have found links between divorce or widowhood and heart disease that were explained, at least in part, by changes in people’s access to health care and their ability to keep up healthy eating and exercise habits.

But these are the first results from tracking people over a longer period of time—18 years—to capture the cumulative effects of changes in marital status, says Dupre. “We looked at lifetime exposure to not only current marital status, but how many times someone has been divorced in the past. What we found was that repeated exposure to divorce put men and women, but particularly women, at higher risk of having a heart attack compared to those who were married.”

MORE: Study: Marriage is Good For The Heart

And it wasn’t simply changes in health insurance coverage or financial status resulting from the divorce that explained the higher heart risk. Even after Dupre’s group accounted for these, the relationship held. While he admits that the trial did not investigate exactly how divorce is seeding more heart attacks, other studies hint at a possible explanation. Dramatic life changes such as divorce, which signal an end to not only a significant relationship but potentially to stable financial and social circumstances as well, can lead to spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn can push blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar to unhealthy heights.

The long term scope of the study revealed the impact that social and life events can have on the physical functioning of the body. “The health consequences of social stresses are real,” says Dupre. For women, the 77% higher risk of heart attack connected to multiple divorces was on par with well-established factors such as hypertension (which boosts risk by 73%) and diabetes (which elevates heart problems by 81%).

MORE: Do Married People Really Live Longer?

That’s doesn’t mean, of course, that women should avoid getting divorced to save their hearts. “Another way to put it is to say that women who are stably married are at an increased advantage of preventing heart attacks than women who may have had to go through transitions where they weren’t,” says Dupre.

It also makes a good case for doctors including discussion about potential stressors, including lifestyle and social circumstances, in their health assessment of patients. Recognizing that divorce may be a life event that can contribute to higher heart attack risk, for example, they can monitor patients experiencing divorce more carefully, and be alert to the first signs of potential problems with cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar. “Understanding all of the factors that lead to a physiological response are equally important,” says Dupre. And potentially life saving.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

What 5 Days of Junk Food Does to Your Metabolism

There's far more than weight gain to worry about

It takes surprisingly few days of a mac-and-cheese-rich diet to do some really bad things to your metabolism. Just five days on a diet full of processed food was enough to alter a body’s healthy response to food, finds a small new study published in the journal Obesity.

Researchers wanted to look at how skeletal muscles adapt when we pound our bodies with fatty processed foods, so they took 12 healthy college-aged men and put them on an eating regimen designed by the researchers, including an initial control diet. Those on the fatty diet ate 55% of their calories came from fat—and about 18% of their total calories came from saturated fat. That’s a lot more saturated fat than most Americans eat, no matter how bad their diet. The control diet was about 30% fat.

“When we were toying around with what diet we were going to use, we looked at things like gift certificates for McDonald’s,” says Matthew W. Hulver, PhD, department head of Human Nutrition, Food and Exercise at Virginia Tech. “But a McDonald’s diet isn’t even saturated enough compared to what we fed the people in our study.”

They settled on a Westernized diet topped with butter, featuring foods like macaroni and cheese, ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise and butter, and fatty microwavable meals. The researchers took muscle biopsies from the men before and after the high-fat feeding. The researchers formulated the fatty diets to be identical in calories to the control.

When researchers looked at specific gene targets, the effects on metabolism were dramatic. “The normal response to a meal was essentially either blunted or just not there after five days of high-fat feeding,” Hulver says. Before going on a work-week’s worth of a fatty diet, when the men ate a normal meal they saw big increases in oxidative targets four hours after eating. That response was obliterated after the five-day fat infusion. And under normal eating conditions, the biopsied muscle used glucose as an energy source by oxidizing glucose. “That was essentially wiped out after,” he says. “We were surprised how robust the effects were just with five days.”

While their overall insulin sensitivity didn’t change in the short time frame, the findings suggest that longer exposure to a diet of this kind might lead to insulin resistance down the line.

If five days of fat is enough to mess with metabolism, the chronic effects raise interesting questions, Hulver says. “Our question is: does this prime the body? When you go into a period where you are overconsuming calories, would individuals who have a chronic high fat diet be predisposed to weight gain?”

Hulver says he doesn’t know the answer yet, but his lab’s future studies hope to find out.

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