TIME Research

Weight Loss Supplements Contain Amphetamine-Like Substance, Research Finds

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Many supplements contain a potentially dangerous ingredient, a new study says

Several supplements for weight loss or fitness contain ingredients that are similar to the stimulant amphetamine, but have not been tested for safety in humans, according to new research.

The chemical BMPEA, labeled as Acacia rigidula, was first discovered in a handful of dietary supplements analyzed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013, the New York Times reports. The names of the specific supplements were not released by the FDA, but in a new study published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, a team of researchers have found that BMPEA has not been removed, and is still present in several currently on the market.

“Consumers of Acacia rigidula supplements may be exposed to pharmacological dosages of an amphetamine isomer that lacks evidence of safety in humans,” the study authors write. “The FDA should immediately warn consumers about BMPEA and take aggressive enforcement action to eliminate BMPEA in dietary supplements.”

Read more at the New York Times.

 

TIME Research

More Women Aren’t Having Children, Survey Finds

Nearly half of women between 15 and 44 are childless

More women in the U.S. are childless than at any other time since the government began keeping track, a new survey found.

Nearly half of women between the ages of 15 and 44 did not have kids in 2014, up from 46.5% in 2012 to 47.6% in 2014, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The figure is the highest percentage since the Census Bureau started measuring it in 1976.

Among women between 25 and 29, 49.6% were childless in 2014, also an all-time high. In the group between 30 and 34, 28.9% were childless, up from 28.2% in 2012 but below an all-time high of 29.7% in 2010.

As of 2013, the general fertility rate in the U.S., as measured by the number of babies women between 15 and 44 have over their lifetimes, had fallen for six straight years and sat at 1.86, according to the New York Times. Maintaining a stable U.S. population would require a fertility rate of 2.1.

Read next: There’s Nothing Wrong with the Mommy Track

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TIME Companies

This Is How Long Your Business Will Last, According to Science

And the answer is somewhat surprising

It’s a big question, and one that nearly every entrepreneur and economist grapples with: how long do businesses generally survive?

A group of scientists appear to have at least partially unlocked the answer, with a somewhat surprising result: publicly-traded companies die —through acquisitions, mergers, bankruptcy or other reasons — at the same rate irrespective of how well-established they are, or what they actually do.

The magic number, a new study from scientists at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico reveals, is about 10 years.

The study, published in the journal Royal Science Interface and conducted by three researchers, was led by then-undergraduate fellow Madeleine Daepp under the guidance of Marcus Hamilton, Professor Luis Bettencourt and Distinguished Professor Geoffrey West.

“We gave her this basic idea, and she did the heavy lifting,” Hamilton, a postdoctoral research fellow at the institute, told Science Daily.

Daepp, now a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, analyzed Standard and Poor’s Compustat — a database of every publicly traded company since 1950 — using a statistical method called survival analysis. What she and her advisers found is that a company’s mortality rate was not affected by it’s past performance or even its products.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re selling bananas, airplanes, or whatever,” Hamilton said.

The reason behind their findings remains beyond their study’s scope, but the researchers hypothesize that the biological world’s systems and competition for resources might provide some sort of insight.

[Science Daily]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 1

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Screenings can identify a suicidal person, but the actions taken after the screening to decrease stigma and deliver help have a better chance of averting disaster.

By Christopher and Jennifer Gandin Le at Reuters

2. Only five percent of Americans who study abroad are black. That deepens other cultural divisions.

By Brandon Tensley in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

3. Game theory holds that cooperation in nature is essential to survival. But new research asks if the game can be rigged.

By Emily Singer in Quanta

4. Most of us believe we can achieve the American Dream if we just work hard. Today’s equality gap shows we’re dead wrong.

By Nicholas Fitz in Scientific American

5. Learning from the past: A thousand year-old Anglo Saxon remedy was just proven effective against hospital superbug MRSA.

By Clare Wilson in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Research

A New Blood Test Can Estimate How Serious Your Food Allergy Is

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A blood test may make diagnosing allergy severity a little less invasive

A blood test can reveal just how severe a person’s food allergy is and could possibly replace more invasive testing, a new study published Wednesday morning suggests.

Around 4 to 6% of American children have food allergies, a risk the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “a growing food safety and public health concern.” However, determining whether someone has a food allergy and then determining just how severe that food allergy is can be tricky.

To assess whether someone has a specific allergy, doctors will perform skin pricks or blood tests to look for skin reactions or high levels of allergy-specific antibodies. But doctors still don’t have a simple tool to test just how allergic a person is to a specific food. In some cases, the individual will need to eat whatever food they are allergic to in the presence of a physician so the doctor can determine the severity of their allergy in a safe space.

Of course, that experience isn’t without patient anxiety, which is one of the reasons why researchers at Mount Sinai Health System studied whether a blood test could predict allergy severity and potentially replace any tests that require ingesting allergens. Their research is published in the journal The Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

The test is called basophil activation test (BAT). It’s a blood test that measures the levels of an immune cell called basophil which is activated by food exposure. The researchers used the blood test on 67 people with food sensitivities between the ages of 12 and 45 while they also underwent an exposure test comparing their reactions to peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, or sesame versus a placebo. The allergens or placebo were given at random, and the goal was for the researchers to see if the results of the blood test corresponded to how the people reacted.

The test proved accurate, showing a high correlation with the BAT’s scores and the severity of the individuals’ reactions.

The researchers say the ultimate goal is to develop a new test that can become part of clinical allergy diagnoses in order to improve the quality of life for patients. “[This study] should encourage similar studies, which could lead to wide widespread clinical use,” says study author Dr. Xiu-Min Li, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Read next: Easter Egg Cookies Recalled For Containing … Eggs

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TIME Research

Level Up! Gamers May Learn Visual Skills More Quickly

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Matt Sayles—Invision/AP Xbox fans play games from the popular “Halo” franchise at HaloFest at the Avalon Theatre in Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014

Practice not only makes perfect, it may improve gamers' ability to learn

A small study from Brown University suggests video gamers, who are already known to have a better visual-processing skills, may also be able to improve on those attributes faster than the average person.

According to Brown University press, the study analyzed nine gamers and compared them with nine nongamers during a two-day trial. Researchers required participants to complete two visual tasks, one right after the other. The next day they repeated the exercises (in a random order) and compared how participants improved.

What they found is that the second task interfered with the ability of nongamers to improve on the first — while gamers improved equally well on both exercises.

“We sometimes see that an expert athlete can learn movements very quickly and accurately and a musician can play the piano at the very first sight of the notes very elegantly … maybe [gamers] can learn more efficiently and quickly as a result of training,” senior author Yuka Sasaki said.

The authors admit the findings require more study, conceding that there is no proof that video games caused the learning improvement, since people with quick visual-processing skills could be naturally drawn to gaming.

TIME Research

Your Pet Food Probably Isn’t Made of What You Think

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Bad news for pets with refined palates

A new study published Tuesday night shows many pet food brands contain unspecified animal parts that aren’t listed on labels.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham and published in the journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, looked at 17 popular wet pet foods for both dogs and cats in U.K. supermarkets. They found that 14 of those brands contained cow, chicken and pig DNA—but none of the brands listed the animals explicitly on the label.

Of the seven products that displayed the phrase “with beef,” only two had more cow DNA in them than combined DNA of chicken and pigs.

That might come as a shock to consumers, the researchers say, but by leaving certain animal parts off the label, the products weren’t breaking any U.K. rules.

“Besides the customer not being able readily make an informed choice on the pet food product due to incomplete disclosure of ingredients (allowed by legislation), there could be the added complication of pet food allergies where a dog or cat could have adverse reactions to certain undeclared animal proteins in a product,” says study author Kin-Chow Chang, a professor of veterinary molecular medicine at University of Nottingham.

Since the items in the study were purchased in the U.K., the findings don’t necessarily apply directly to American pet food. But the pet foods studied are international brands, and by looking through regulation and labeling requirements for pet food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), what consumers may think is a full beef product, for example, could also have meat from other animals and still be abiding by proper U.S. regulation.

The FDA does not require pet food to have pre-market approval, but says pet food should be safe to eat, have no harmful substances and be “truthfully” labeled.

According to an FDA spokesperson, the FDA has its own pet food regulation, but individual states can also enforce their own labeling guidelines and may have adopted regulations suggested by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Under these regulations, “meat” that comes from cows, pigs, sheep, goats or any combination of these species can simply be called “meat” on pet food labels. Meat from horses or other species of mammals must be labeled to indicate the species of animal from which the meat comes (e.g. horsemeat or kangaroo meat). The term “poultry” can mean any mixture of species like chicken or duck.

You can determine a lot about what might be in pet food by how it is labeled. For instance, if a pet food product is called “Beef for Dogs,” then 95% of the product must be beef. However, if a pet food product names an ingredient (like beef) in it’s title, but the ingredient makes up less than 95% of the product (but at least 25%), then the name of the product must have a qualifying descriptive term added to it, such as “Dinner,” “Platter,” “Entree,” “Nuggets” or “Formula.”

The FDA gives the following example: “In the example “Beef Dinner for Dogs” only one-quarter of the product must be beef, and beef would most likely be the third or fourth ingredient on the ingredient list.”

The researchers say their findings underline the need for better transparency among the pet food industry in order to help consumers make more informed choices about what they are buying for their pets.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Mental Health Therapy Through Social Networking Could Soon Be a Reality

While still in the development stage, the peer-to-peer technology had "significant benefits"

An experimental social networking platform intent on helping users calm anxiety and reverse symptoms of depression has received positive feedback.

Panoply is a peer-to-peer platform jointly administered by MIT and Northwestern universities that encourages users to “think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that upset them,” says a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers found that the network, which is still being studied and has yet to be commercialized, produced “significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.”

Panoply works by teaching users a therapeutic tool called cognitive reappraisal, which tries to get people to look at a problematic situation from different perspectives.

When a person is stressed, they write what is causing the problem and their reaction. The “crowd” then responds by a offering a contrasting outlook. Comments are vetted to ensure the original poster is not abused.

The study involved 166 people over a three-week period. Researchers suggested a 25-minute per week minimum interaction to see results.

According to the published paper, the next step is to widen the net and see if the social media platform is as effective over a more diverse audience.

TIME animals

Science Has Found Out What Music Your Cat Should Be Chilling to While Being Neutered

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Unsurprisingly, AC/DC is not it

During surgical operations, cats aren’t huge fans of adult contemporary ballads or fist-pumping rocks anthems. In fact, research has found that felines much prefer the lush sound of classical music when going under the knife.

In an experiment detailed this week in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, veterinary clinicians at the University of Lisbon studied how 12 female pet cats responded to different genres of music, while undergoing neutering.

To gauge the animals’ responses, the clinicians recorded their respiratory rates and pupil diameters, which are an indication of their depth of anesthesia.

During the experiment, the cats were fitted with headphones and then exposed to two minutes of silence — as a control — before listening to portions of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings (Opus 11),” Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

“The results showed that the cats were in a more relaxed state (as determined by their lower values for respiratory rate and pupil diameter) under the influence of classical music, with the pop music producing intermediate values,” reports Science Daily.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, listening to AC/DC while being spayed induced “a more stressful situation.”

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

A Diet High in Pesticides Is Linked to a Lower Sperm Count

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Danny Kim for TIME

Strawberries and spinach are among the worst offenders

The troubling link between pesticide exposure and fertility isn’t new; scientists have already established that people who work with pesticides tend to have lower fertility than people who don’t. But for the majority of us who don’t work with chemicals, diet is the biggest source of exposure, says Jorge Chavarro, MD, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and senior author of a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Chavarro and his colleagues wanted to see if pesticide residues left on fruits and vegetables might have a similar effect on sperm—and their findings suggest that they did. Men who ate fruits and vegetables with a lot of pesticides had lower sperm counts and more oddly shaped sperm than those who had lower levels of dietary pesticide exposure.

MORE: Not So Fertile Ground

Over an 18-month period, the researchers used data from the Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) study, including semen samples from 155 men who were being treated at a Boston fertility clinic and a food frequency questionnaire they completed. The researchers determined pesticide exposure by comparing the questionnaire answers with government data about produce pesticide levels in the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program.

The study didn’t tease out individual foods, but the researchers classified produce according to whether it had high or low-to-moderate levels of pesticides. Men who ate the most high-pesticide fruits and vegetables had a 49% lower total sperm count and 32% fewer sperm that were shaped normally, compared to men who ate the least amount of the high-pesticide produce.

Researchers gave each piece of produce a score based on its level of detectable pesticides, its level of pesticides that exceeded the tolerance level established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and whether the produce had three or more types of detectable pesticides. (The bigger the score, the more it hit all three measures.) Ranked from highest pesticide contamination to lowest, here were the top fruits and vegetables:

  • Green, yellow and red peppers (6)
  • Spinach (6)
  • Strawberries (6)
  • Celery (6)
  • Blueberries (5)
  • Potatoes (5)
  • Peaches and plums (5)
  • Apples or pears (5)
  • Winter squash (4)
  • Kale, mustard greens and chard greens (4)
  • Grapes and raisins (4)

The team didn’t tease out associations with individual pesticides. But they believe that a mixture of pesticides—not just one particular pesticide—is responsible for the link. The strongest variable in their analysis were the proportion of fruits and vegetables consumed that use three or more pesticides. “The more pesticides are applied on any particular crop, that seems to be having a bigger impact,” Chavarro says.

Chavarro says he still remains skeptical, and that one study isn’t enough to offer definitive proof. “As far as we are aware, this is the first time that something like this has been reported,” he says. “It will be very important to replicate these results in other studies.” But for people who are concerned about their dietary exposure to pesticides, there are ways to lower it, he says, like eating organic and choosing produce not listed on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list.

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