TIME Cancer

How Diet Can Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer

Tomato and bean consumption helps prevent the disease

Consuming more than ten servings a week of tomatoes and beans lowers the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bristol.

The findings expand on previous research and suggest that men should consume foods rich in lycopene and selenium, which are found in tomatoes and beans respectively, to help prevent the onset of a disease that kills about 30,000 men in the United States each year.

The study compared the diets of more than 1,800 men between the ages of 50 and 69 who had prostate cancer to the diets of more than 12,000 of their cancer-free peers.

While the study’s conclusions provide some dietary guidance, researchers say more work needs to be done to develop further dietary guidelines.

“Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention. However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings, especially through human trials,” said Vanessa Er, a researcher at the University of Bristol who led the study. “Men should still eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active.”

TIME Research

Journal Retracts Paper that Questioned CDC Autism Study

A paper that claimed government scientists covered up data showing a connection between vaccines and autism has been pulled by its publisher

Earlier in August, the journal Translational Neurodegeneration, an open access, peer-reviewed journal, published a re-analysis of a 2004 paper published in Pediatrics that looked at MMR vaccines and autism. The re-analysis of the data, by biochemical engineer Brian Hooker of Simpson University, claimed to find a higher rate of vaccination against MMR among a subset — African-American boys — of the original study population who developed autism than among those who did not, a finding that Hooker claims was suppressed by the authors of the original paper from the Centers of Disease Control. One of the co-authors of the 2004 paper, William Thompson, released a statement admitting to omitting the data after a secretly recorded conversation he had with Hooker was released on YouTube. (Thompson was not available for comment.)

MORE: Whistleblower Claims CDC Covered Up Data Showing Vaccine-Autism Link

Now, however, the editors of Translational Neurodegeneration have retracted Hooker’s paper, noting on its site that “This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.”

TIME Research

Your Home Is Covered In Bacteria

And the bugs you live with are unique to you

If you think your home is a refuge from the gross bacteria of the world, a new study published in Science will burst your antibacterial bubble. Every room in your house teems with bacteria so unique to you and your family that a swab of any room reveals your microbial signature.

Scientists involved in the Home Microbiome Project sequenced bacteria from seven families (pets included) and their homes over six weeks. They swabbed the surfaces of skin, hands, feet, noses, countertops, doorknobs, and nearly every surface with which the residents interacted in their abodes. Turns out, our bodies release bacteria in almost every encounter we have with our environment—when we shed skin, when we yawn, when we open the fridge door. And that germ-sharing happens rapidly. When three of the families in the study moved to a new house, it took less than 24 hours for their new places to look exactly like their old ones, at least when it came to their bacterial housemates. And that was true even when the new place was a hotel room.

“People get very fidgety and itchy about hotel rooms,” study author Jack Gilbert, a microbiologist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, says — from his hotel room in South Korea. “But realistically, my hotel room right now looks like my microbiome. I’ve wiped out any of the previous occupants’ microflora in here—it’s 99.9% me.”

We don’t only share our bacteria with our houses, but also with each other. In the study, couples and their young children shared the most microbes with each other, thanks to regular physical contact. Hands were the most similar microbially, while noses retained an air of germy individuality since we pretty much keep them to ourselves (thank you, tissues!). The microbial constellations of families were so specific and unique that researchers were able to predict which family a given set of floor germs belonged to.

That’s fine when it comes to the more benign microbial hitchhikers, but what about the more scary ones that can cause disease? The researchers tracked a potentially antibiotic-resistant human pathogen from a kitchen countertop to the hands of family members, but no one got sick. “It’s likely that we all carry around nasty pathogens all the time in our body,” Gilbert says. “People aren’t getting ill because of them.” So our immune systems are able to ward off many of the nastier bugs most of the time — as long as we’re relatively healthy. Gilbert believes that it’s only when our microflora are compromised or unbalanced that the bad bugs get the chance to attack us.

Exposing your immune system to a wider array of the microbial universe is another way to bolster your defenses against them. And one way to do that is to get a pet. Dogs and cats track in the outside world, and that includes microbes. In the study, families with pets had more plant and soil bacteria in their homes — and that’s a good thing: a study earlier this summer found that infants who lived among pet dander had lower rates of allergies. “[Having a dog] rapidly supercharges the highways of microbial transmission in the house,” Gilbert says. (He is so convinced by the results, in fact, that he got a dog.)

The results are just the beginning of understanding how we interact with our environment, including with elements that we can’t even see. “There’s a continuum between you and your world, not a brick wall that ends at your skin,” says Gilbert. “We have to really embrace it in every aspect of our lives.”

TIME Environment

Climate Change Could Happen Slower for the Next Decade, Study Says

California's Drought Becomes Critical
One of two major water storage lakes on the Russian River is lake Mendocino, which is nearly empty on January 24, 2014, near Ukiah, California. George Rose—Getty Images

Atmospheric temperatures are expected to rise slowly in the next decade

Temperatures have risen more slowly in the past decade than in the previous 50 years and will continue to rise at a somewhat slower rate in the next decade, according to a new study, even as climate change continues to raise temperatures to unprecedented levels worldwide.

The study, published in the journal Science, explained the temporary slowdown in rising temperatures as a potential consequence of the end of a 30-year current cycle in the Atlantic Ocean that pushes heat into the ocean.

“In the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved into deeper oceans,” the study says.

Despite this brief respite, the study says temperatures will begin to rise more quickly after the cycle is complete.

“Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850,” according to a different study published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends,” the IPCC study said, cautioning that the slowdown in global warming does not mean the atmosphere will not continue to heat at a faster rate.

TIME

Why Your Fear of Looking Stupid Is Making You Look Stupid

New research indicates that we're all scared of asking for help and looking dumb. But we shouldn't be -- people find you more competent if you come to them for advice

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to ask someone’s advice, but were worried you would look incompetent? Well, in the words of RuPaul, “Your fear of looking stupid is making you look stupid.”

In fact, a new report released this week by researchers from Harvard Business School and Wharton School suggests that RuPaul is on to something, (though, obviously, the researchers phrased it in a slightly more delicate fashion). The research, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Management Science, found that though many people are afraid to ask for advice — and risk looking incompetent — they’ve actually got it backwards. People who seek advice are likely to be thought of as more competent, at least by the people they’re asking.

The researchers came to that conclusion by conducting a series of studies. In the first, researchers tried to determine whether people are actually afraid of looking incompetent by telling participants to imagine that they needed advice from a co-worker. Some were then told that their hypothetical selves would actually seek advice and others were told they would not. Participants were then asked to rate how competent they thought their hypothetical co-worker found them. Turns out, the people who hypothetically asked for help felt that they would be viewed as less competent than those who didn’t.

Which is understandable, to an extent. Though the old adage says “there are no stupid questions,” anyone who has spent time on the snark-riddled internet knows that that’s not actually the case. Sometimes it feels wiser to shut up and muddle through, than risk looking like a complete fool.

Yet that’s where the new reasearch gets interesting. In the next study, researchers paired participants with an unseen partner that they could only communicate with over instant message. (Their partners did not actually exist; the messages sent were programmed by the researchers.) The participants were then asked to do a brain teaser, before handing the task off to their partner. Once they’d finished the task, they received a message from their “partner” that either read, “I hope it went well. Do you have any advice?” or “I hope it went well.” Later, when asked by the researchers, people rated the partners who asked for advice as being more competent than those who had simply wished them well. What’s more, the harder the brain teaser, the more competent the advice-seeking “partners” were rated.

Even more interesting, is that when the researchers asked participants to rate their own self-confidence after completing a task, the ones who had been asked for advice felt better about themselves than the ones who had not been asked.

The researchers concluded that people’s egos are boosted when they’re consulted and asked to dole out advice, which in turn leads them to think more highly of the people who’ve just boosted their egos.

Essentially, people are so flattered to be asked for advice that their heads swell a little and they think of themselves as smart; that reflects well on the advice-seeker who is in turn believed to be smart enough to recognize their game. So take our advice: the next time you’re itching to ask for help, do it.

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