TIME Heart Disease

Here’s How Much You Should Stand Each Day

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More evidence suggests getting off your seat and moving around is good for your health

We know that the amount of time we spend sitting each day wreaks havoc on our health, and in a new paper, researchers show that spending just two hours standing or moving around instead of sitting may have a real positive impact on our health.

In the new study published Thursday in the European Heart Journal, researchers had 782 men and women wear activity trackers 24 hours a day for seven days. The monitors tracked how much time the men and women spent stepping, sitting, standing, sleeping or lying down. The participants also provided blood samples and other measurements like blood pressure and weight.

With the data gathered from the trackers, the researchers used a mathematical model to estimate how the allotted time in each condition would impact the men and women’s health. Interestingly, they found that spending two extra hours a day standing instead of sitting was linked to better blood sugar levels and lower levels of fat in the blood (triglycerides). Specifically, more time spent standing was associated with a 2% lower average blood sugar levels and a 11% lower levels of triglycerides. Cholesterol levels showed improvement as well.

The findings also showed that spending an extra two hours moving instead of sitting was linked to a significant lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

The study cannot definitely prove that these tweaks to the amount of time spent sitting directly causes improvements in health markers, but the researchers note that the findings do fall in line with what’s known about the impact on the body of being active (or at least not being sedentary).

More research is still needed, but the findings support the longstanding advice that moving around is better for our health than lounging around, and suggest that any decisions to purchase a standing desk are not made in vain.

TIME Research

Watch NASA Crash a Perfectly Good Plane In the Name of Science

The organization's Langley facility is developing next-generation search-and-rescue technology

On Wednesday, researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia raised a Cessna 172 aircraft 100 feet in the air, suspended by cables, and then dropped it right down into an enormous pile of dirt. It smashed into the ground nose-first, flipping onto its back and delivering tremendous force to the pair of crash-test dummies within. The scientists, by all accounts, were happy.

“This will provide very good data collection for us,” said Lisa Mazzuca, NASA’s Search and Rescue mission manager. “This is exactly what we wanted. The nose hit the ground first.”

The goal, according to NASA’s team, is to improve aviation emergency response times:

Wednesday’s test, the second of three being conducted at Langley, is part of a push to bolster the reliability of emergency locator transmitters. The systems automatically alert rescue personnel in the event of an airplane crash.

But the systems, called ELTs for short, are often so damaged in crashes they fail to transmit as designed. That means it’s harder for rescue teams to reach a crash site quickly.

The first test was conducted on July 1, with the plane crashing into concrete rather than soil. Researchers hope the series of experiments will improve systems designed to help emergency responders locate downed planes by keeping those systems functional after a crash.

[NASA]

TIME Research

Millennials Now Have Jobs But Still Live With Their Parents

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A Pew study finds the perplexing pattern has affected the housing industry

Halfway through this decade and nearly seven years after the Great Recession, Millennials are bouncing back—sort of.

In a new study released by Pew, researchers find that while Millennials—people who were born after 1981—are back to the pre-recession era unemployment levels of 7.7%, they haven’t been able to establish themselves as adults in other ways, like owning a home or getting married.

Richard Fry, an economist and lead author of the study, describes the situation as Millennials’ “failure to launch.” “I think the core is a bit of a puzzle with one clear consequence,” Fry told TIME. “There’s good news: the group that was hit the hardest—young adults—are now getting full-time jobs and earnings are tracking upwards. But the surprise is that with the recovery in the labor market, there are fewer young adults living independently.” (Living independently here is defined as heading a household; in other words, owning a home.)

When the recession hit, young people moved back into their parents’ house in droves, unemployed and without much hope for any future work. The thought process was that once the economy improved and Millennials returned to work, they’d scoot out of their parents lair.

But that hasn’t been the case, and economists aren’t sure why.

“Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know,” Fry said. He was also the author of a study three years ago that explored Millennials living and work situations using 2012 data, and he thought then that the explanation was clear. “My thought was, ‘Yeah, that’s true, the job market is crummy,'” he said. “My expectation was that as the labor market improves, more young people will strike out on their own, but that’s not the case.”

About 42.2 million 18-to-34 year olds are living away from home this year; 2007 numbers were just above 2015’s independent young adult population at 42.7 million. There are a few common characteristics of these Millennial householders; they are more likely to be women (72% compared to their male counterparts) and college-educated (86% of those with bachelors degrees were living independently compared to 75% of the same peer group holding only a high school education). Fry points to women getting in permanent romantic relationships earlier that either lead to marriage or cohabitation as the cause of this gender difference.

The consequences of Millennials still living at home go far beyond the household dynamics of adult children being at home with parents. Consider the housing sector, which has not recovered from the 2008 economic tumble. If more young adults had decided to take on home ownership, the economy may have improved more.

So how are Millennials most likely living if they’re not living at home? Probably with a roommate, or doubled up with a fellow adult who is not their spouse or partner, data suggests.

But having a roommate or living at home have real demographic effects for the future, Fry says. He goes back to two key facts: that people living independently tend to be better educated and that college educated people tend to delay marriage or not marry at all (though even Millennials with a high school education are not getting married as much as they used to.) That means that less educated Millennials are facing consequences in not just the job market, but beyond.

“There’s less sorting—that when the less educated do marry, they marry others who are also less educated,” he said. “That’s going to impact household income and economic wellbeing. That’s going to affect economic outcomes.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Science of Why You Crave Comfort Food

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It's not just because these foods are tasty. It's because they make us feel less alone

In mid-July, I was visiting my hometown in Minnesota when I happened upon the unmistakable scent of something deep-fried. I was at a concert, and no matter how off-brand a dietary choice of corn dogs and cheese curds may be for a health writer, I went for it. How could I not? I spent two thoroughly enjoyable summers during college working at the Minnesota State Fair, and that experience continues to make corn-and-grease-dipped hot dogs not only appetizing but somehow irresistible, too.

Summer is the season for nostalgic eating: Hot days in the park call for a trip to the ice cream truck, concerts call for corn dogs, baseball games call for hotdogs and beer, ice-cold movie theaters call for popcorn. And it’s not just me. Researchers suggest that when we associate foods with happy memories, the effects are profound, impacting how good we think foods taste as well as how good those foods make us feel.

It makes intuitive sense that positive experiences with a given food could influence our craving for it later on, but recent research also suggests something else is at play, too: comfort foods remind us of our social ties, which means they may help us feel less lonesome when we feel isolated. In a recent July 2015 study, Jordan Troisi, an assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee, The University of The South, and his colleagues found that people with strong relationships preferred the taste of comfort food when they experienced feelings of social isolation.

“Comfort food seems to be something people associate very significantly with close relationships,” says Troisi. “This probably comes about by individuals coming to associate a particular food item with members of their family, social gatherings, and people taking care of them, which is why we see a lot of comfort foods [that are] traditional meals or things had at a party.”

Of course, what counts as comfort food is different person to person. When Troisi has asked people write about an experience they’ve had with a comfort food, essays have ranged from soup to kimchi. “It’s not just that ice cream, for instance, is really tasty. It’s that someone has developed a really significant meaning behind the idea of ice cream due to their relationships with others, and that’s what is triggering this effect,” he says.

Even the smell of a meaningful dish can elicit feelings of belonging, some research suggests. In a February 2015 study, Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Chelsea Reid and her colleagues had 160 people smell 12 different scents, including apple pie, cotton candy and baby powder and rate the extent to which the scent was familiar, arousing, autobiographically relevant, and the extent to which it elicited nostalgia. “Nostalgia can be evoked in different ways, but scents may be particularly likely to evoke nostalgia due to the strong link between scents and memory. The smell of pumpkin pie might bring all those holidays with family flooding back, or the smell of a familiar perfume might arouse memories with your partner,” says Reid.

Biologically speaking, scent and memory are closely tied. “Psychological research has demonstrated that smells are powerfully linked to memory, and to autobiographical memory in particular,” says Reid. “The olfactory bulb, which is involved in the sense of smell, is linked to areas in the brain associated with memory and emotional experiences.”

Humans have a fundamental need to belong, says Reid, and because nostalgia often centers around personal events involving people they care about, she sees the evocation of nostalgia as one way people can obtain a sense of belonging even when the people they are close to are not close by.

So while corn dogs in the summer may not be fine dining by any standard, for me, they trigger happy memories of summers long ago—and that’s a good thing. In moderation, of course.

Read next: 5 Foods That Taste Better Now Than They Will All Year

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TIME Nike

How Nike’s Medieval Ice Pack Helmet Will Cool Athletes’ Skulls

Or, how to be cool without looking cool.

According to Nike, pouring a bottle of water on your head isn’t a good enough way to cool down after finishing a decathlon. The sporting goods company’s solution? A super-cooling piece of headgear, which doesn’t have a price tag yet, but is surely more expensive than a water bottle.

The device fits snugly like a hat on the forehead, head and neck, then drapes over the face with loose mesh. It may make athletes look straight out of a Friday the 13th set, but the cooling effect might be worth the bad photos. The hood is like a head-shaped ice pack, which surrounds the athlete with chilled water.

In a Nike [fortune-stock symbol=”NKE”] press release, Olympic decathlete Ashton Eaton, who is partnering with Nike to create the headgear, explains why he wants to wear a medieval ice pack helmet: “A perfect scenario would be to fell like you’ve just started on every event. There more you do, the more attrition you experience.” For Eaton, cooling off quickly isn’t a matter of comfort: it helps him regenerate between his ten events.

Eaton is testing the prototypes for Nike in the months leading to the 2016 Summer Olympics, according to Wired. Olympic athlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who is married to Eaton, will be testing out the hood during her summer training as well.

TIME Healthcare

Hospitals Have Reduced Deaths, Hospitalizations, and Costs Among Medicare Patients

"It's a jaw-dropping finding"

American hospitals have reduced deaths, hospitalizations, and costs among people over the age of 65 in the past couple of decades, according to a new report released Tuesday.

“We didn’t expect to see such a remarkable improvement over time,” said Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at the Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Krumholz and his colleagues looked at over 68 million Medicare beneficiaries between 1999 and 2013. The group was chosen for their “fee-for-service” structure, where doctors and hospitals would be paid per procedure or visit.

They found that hospitalization rates for this group plummeted 24%, saving more than 3 million people unnecessary hospital visits. Their chance of survival and recovery had improved from less than two decades ago: patients were 45% less likely to die during their stay, 24% less likely to die within a month of being admitted, and 22% less likely to die within the year.

Deaths among the group fell 16%, meaning 300,000 lives were saved in the 14-year span, according to the report. Patients who visited the hospital also saw a 15% drop in their bills compared to 1999.

Krumholz said that better training for hospital staff led to many of the improvements.

“There has been tremendous focus on making sure that our hospitals are safer and that treatments are more timely and effective,” Krumholz told USA Today.

People are also living healthier, longer lives—smoking less, breathing cleaner air, and able to take advantage of scientific breakthroughs in medicine.

Despite doing so well, Krumholz doesn’t think it’s time for hospitals to get lax.

“The things we’re trying to do to make things better are working,” Krumholz noted. “Rather than wave the victory flag, we want to see that trend continue. There’s no reason to take our foot off the pedal.”

 

TIME Research

There’s a New Way to Predict West Nile Virus Outbreaks

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Scientists are working on a promising new model

It’s peak mosquito season in the United States, which means the risk for the mosquito-borne West Nile is up. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency sees the most cases of the disease between June and September.

As of July 21, 2015, the CDC reports that 33 states have reported West Nile in people, mosquitoes or animals and there have been 23 cases of West Nile in humans. Though many people with West Nile will not develop symptoms, the disease can cause inflammation of the brain or inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal chord. Only about 1% of people will develop neurological illness from the virus. Unfortunately there are no drugs or vaccines for West Nile. Cases have been reported in every state except for Alaska and Hawaii.

Given the fact that there’s no cure or vaccine for West Nile, being able to predict when and where the disease could spread in the U.S. before it happens would be a boon for public health experts, and researchers are getting closer to that possibility. In May, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published their recent findings that showed links between the weather and incidence of West Nile virus nationwide.

MORE: You Asked: Why Do Mosquitoes Always Bite Me?

The researchers analyzed associations between temperature and precipitation and higher prevalence of West Nile virus disease in the U.S. from the years 2004 to 2012. The found notable and consistent patterns among different regions in the U.S. For instance, in the East, a drier than normal fall and spring was associated with an above average number of outbreaks. But patterns looked different in the West. Weather may influence breeding patterns as well as other vectors of the disease like birds.

The researchers are now in the process of using their findings to build a model using climate data to predict the risk of West Nile Virus transmission across the U.S. “If we can predict [West Nile virus] outbreaks, we can target public health messages to high risk regions of the country. And counties will have additional information to use for deciding about when, where, and if they should do mosquito control,” says researcher Micah Hahn a scientist at NCAR and CDC.

According to NCAR scientists Andrew Monaghan and Mary Hayden, who are also working on the model, additional data sets are being considered and implemented to help the model predict the number of cases expected in each U.S. county, including land use data, demographic data, and mosquito maps.

The hope is that the CDC will eventually adopt the model. According to Monaghan, having this information could help the CDC allocate resources to places that are likely going to be the most affected. The researchers want the model to be both informative and easily digestible to the average person. It’s also possible that the model could one day be translated to work for other mosquito-borne diseases in the United States besides West Nile.

Some researchers estimate that a functioning system will be available in about a year. Others involved are more broad in their estimations: “We continue to work on it but it may be several years before we have a validated model that we can use, if we get there at all,” says Dr. Marc Fischer of the CDC. Still, those in the community remain optimistic that such a system is possible, and may be available sooner rather than later.

TIME Research

Here’s How Sexy Advertising Backfires

Researchers say that titillating content can, in fact, hurt sales‚ not help them

The first nude print ad was published in 1936 for Woodbury Soap. It featured an undressed woman lazily lying at the beach, her arm positioned at just the right angle to shield her breasts from view. It followed the old advertising adage that sex sells.

But that no longer holds true, according to a new study released by the Psychological Bulletin. Brad Bushman, a communications professor at Ohio State University and a co-author of the study, says it’s not that sex and violence don’t grab our attention—of course they do. In fact, paying attention to such things are evolutionary responses that are necessary for survival (being attuned to safety threats prepares people to protect themselves; finding opportunities for mating keep the species going).

But just because they grab our eye doesn’t mean the ad translates into sales.

“[A]dvertisers think sex and violence sell, so they buy advertising time during sexual and violent programs, and in turn producers continue to create sexual and violent programs that attract advertising revenue,” the authors write. But when a person is being shown a product—say, laundry detergent—with a sexy backdrop, it’s not the detergent that’s capturing the attention so much as the action onscreen. Sex is distracting, Bushman says. “We have a limited capacity to pay attention to cues.”

Bushman and his co-author, Robert Lull, found 1,869 articles in two databases that had historically studied consumer response to sex and violence. Researchers weeded out studies that didn’t directly address consumer response, didn’t have a control group, and didn’t look explicitly at the effects of sex and/or violence on the consumer.

“In the best case scenario, sex and violence doesn’t work,” Bushman told TIME. “For advertisers, it can actually backfire, and people will be less likely to remember your [product]. They might report being less likely to buy your product if the content of your program is violent or sexual.”

No surprise, some demographics respond differently to sexy or violent ads. Women tend to remember products from provocative ads; men tend to be distracted by sex or violence and not remember the product. Older participants were turned off by violence and sex; younger consumers were more likely to respond to it.

Still, taken together, the researchers conclude this: “Brands advertised in violent contexts will be remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media.”

TIME Research

That Makeup Ad Is Probably Lying to You

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New study reveals how many ads for cosmetics are inaccurate or false

Only 18% of all claims made in commercials for cosmetics are generally trustworthy, according to new research released Monday.

Cosmetics firms often use advertising verbiage like “clinically proven” or “inspired by groundbreaking DNA research.” But researchers combed through these claims and found that the majority were vague and many are outright lies, according to a new study published in the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing.

The researchers assessed 289 cosmetic ads, including ads for products like make-up, skincare and fragrance, featured in magazines like Vogue and Marie Claire. They then separated the various claims into different categories, including environmental claims, endorsement claims and scientific claims. The researchers rated them as “acceptable,” “vague,” “omission” or “outright lie.”

The study authors conclude that claims of “well-being and happiness” are usually not substantiated. “Those who back the claims with scientific evidence and consumer testing often use questionable methodologies for their substantiation,” the authors wrote.

TIME Research

You Can Now Inhale Caffeine Instead of Drink It

Eagle Energy Vapor
Matt Lang—Eagle Energy Eagle Energy Vapor

A new e-cigarette-like inhaler gives users a boost of caffeine. But how safe is it?

Forget coffee and energy drinks—now you can inhale your caffeine.

Perhaps taking a cue from increasingly popular e-cigarettes, marketers have now created a way for people to vape their energy. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that products like Eagle Energy Vapor allow people to forgo their morning cup o’ joe and puff their caffeine instead. Each inhaler boasts a pretty small amount of caffeine, which the company says comes from natural sources like guarana, taurine, and ginseng (stimulants that are also common among energy drinks). As the Times describes it: “Think of it as a Red Bull for the lungs.”

No surprise, some experts in the medical community find this trend problematic. America is, evidently, a nation in need of a pick-me-up, at least if you consider the boom of products that contain caffeine, like energy drinks, caffeinated water and snacks and powdered caffeine. As I recently reported in TIME, the U.S. energy drink business is estimated to grow more than 11% by 2019 to an estimated $26.6 billion in yearly revenue.

So what’s the big deal?

From a health perspective, caffeine is tricky business. Many experts are concerned about some caffeinated products—particularly energy drinks. One of the primary arguments is that unlike coffee or soda, many energy drinks (and the new caffeine inhalers) contain multiple stimulants aside from synthetic caffeine. How these ingredients interact in combination is largely unknown. In addition, many doctors and health watchdogs are dissatisfied with the way these products are regulated. Manufacturers can choose to market their products as dietary supplements or as beverages, neither of which require pre-market safety approval by the FDA or any other public-health agency. According to the Times, the FDA has not reviewed the new caffeine inhalers for safety, either.

The effects of inhaling caffeine are also a gray area. “The way our bodies handle caffeine that is inhaled can be very different from when caffeine is in our food or drink,” says Mary M. Sweeney, a postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Even if an inhaled product delivers the same dose of caffeine as a cup of coffee, it may have different subjective effects for people because the time-course might be different.”

In 2013, the FDA announced that amid a growing trend of manufacturers adding caffeine to food products (like gum, for example), the agency was launching a safety investigation into the matter. It’s now 2015, and that information is still not available to consumers. The FDA says it is continuing to look into it.

The Eagle Energy Vapor inhaler’s aesthetic similarities to e-cigarettes are undeniable. And while the jury is still out in regards to the overall danger of e-cigarettes, recent federal data has shown use tripled among middle and high school students in just one year. Could caffeine inhalers attract young people in a similar way? Are they as dangerous as medical experts believe other caffeinated products are? We don’t know. But what Americans should know is that just because a new caffeinated product is on the market doesn’t mean that it’s undergone a rigorous safety testing or approval process, or that doctors think it’s safe.

“What troubles me most about this particular product is that the flavor composition appears to be similar to candy; thus, it could be attractive to children and adolescents,” says Steven Meredith, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. “The long-term effects of caffeine on the developing brains of children and adolescents are still relatively unknown. But, caffeine consumption interferes with sleep, and sleep is necessary for learning. Thus, long-term cognitive effects of excessive caffeine consumption at a young age is certainly plausible.”

While the FDA says it’s continuing to investigate caffeinated products, it may be in your best interest to stick to stimulants that most medical experts can get behind: coffee.

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