TIME beauty

This Is the Country Where People Are The Happiest With the Way They Look

beauty happiness woman mexico
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Mexicans, you're beautiful and you know it

Of all the peoples of the world, Mexicans are the happiest with their appearance.

Some 74% of Mexicans say they are “completely satisfied” or “fairly satisfied”with their appearance, according to a massive study by market research group GfK, which asked more than 27,000 people, aged 15 or over, in 22 countries around the world what they thought of themselves.

Turkey (71%) came in second, with Ukraine and Brazil in joint third place (both 65%). Also scoring highly are Spain (64%) and Germany and Argentina (both 62%), and the U.S. (60%).

But GfK’s wide-reaching survey also found out that many nationalities aren’t happy with their looks at all. The Japanese are the most unhappy, with 38% of Japanese people saying they are “not at all satisfied” or “not too satisfied,” followed by around 20% of British, Russians and South Koreans.

Perhaps breaking a few stereotypes, GfK found that teenagers are only marginally more self-critical than adults, with 16% of 15-19 year-olds being “not too satisfied” with their looks, compared to 13% for 20-59 year olds. Similarly, women were found to be only marginally more critical about themselves than men.

TIME Research

What If People With Autism Are Actually Hyperfunctional?

An unconventional theory for autism shows promise in a new study in rats

Most people who think about autism think of people who struggle or are inept in some ways, especially when it comes to social behaviors. But there’s growing evidence that the autistic brain may actually be more super-wired to detect and absorb cues from the outside world.

Now, a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience suggests that the brains of people with autism are actually hyperfunctional rather than stunted or impaired, and that if treated early in a very predictable environment, symptoms could diminish.

In 2007, researchers Kamila Markram, Henry Markram, and Tania Rinaldi developed an alternative theory for what autism is, called the “Intense World Syndrome.” They believe that autism is not some form of mental deficit, but that the brain is actually supercharged and hyperfunctional. This makes stimuli overwhelming to people with autism, causing them to socially and emotionally withdraw as a mode of self-protection.

In the new study, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), including Henry Markram and Kamila Markram, showed how autism might be treated following this theory.

The researchers took a group of rats and exposed them to a drug called valproate (VPA), which is a process commonly used to model autism in the rodents. The researchers then exposed the rats to three different environments. The first was a standard environment: a typical laboratory cage. The second was a unpredictable enriched environment, which had things like a running wheel, toys and places to hide. In this environment, the researchers would regularly clean the cages, change out the toys and reorganize the space. The third was a predictable enriched environment, which had stimuli like toys and a running wheel, but after every cleaning the cage remained the same and nothing was moved out of place.

The researchers found that rats exposed to VPA were more sensitive to their living environments compared to control rats. The VPA-exposed rats living in the predictable environment did not develop the same emotional behaviors like anxiety and fear that the VPA-exposed mice living in the unpredictable environment or the standard environment did. The researchers concluded that an unpredictable or impoverished environment exacerbates the autism-like symptoms in rats, but a very predictable environment can prevent these symptoms from developing.

Though the study is still preliminary and was done in rats and not humans, Kamila Markram says she thinks it does have implications for how children with autism might be treated in the future. “Many therapies do recognize that structure and predictability is important, but none of the approaches has put this at the center,” she says. “We say you have to put it at the center and you need to be addressing sensory overflow.”

MORE Temple Grandin: What’s Right With the Autistic Brain

In the ideal scenario, Markram says kids with autism could be diagnosed when they are very young and then raised in a very stable and predictable environment. “You would approach the child from the same direction, books are on the same shelf, toys are always in the same place,” she says.

Markam says that it’s also necessary to change the way people view the disorder as a whole. “It’s important to us that we move away from the autism as a deficit model. These children are hyperfunctional and they can’t bear their environment,” says Markan. “If you have that view, it changes the way you look at research. If you’re a parent, you’ll treat your child in a different way.”

TIME neuroscience

Game-Changing Discovery Links the Brain and the Immune System

New research could affect how we approach everything from Alzheimer's to autism

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have made a dazzling discovery, published this week in Nature: the brain is directly connected to the immune system by previously unknown vessels.

“The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks,'” Kevin Lee, chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, told Science Daily. He added that the discovery “will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”

The discovery of these new vessels has enormous implications for every neurological disease with an immune component, from Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis. It could open up entirely new avenues for research and treatment alike, all stemming from the kind of discovery that has become extraordinarily rare in the 21st century.

“I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” said director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia Jonathan Kipnis, who worked on the research. “I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”

Read more at Science Daily

TIME medicine

Health Experts Reveal How Much Standing At Work You Should Actually Be Doing

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Hero Images—Getty Images/Hero Images

The UK has developed the first set of health recommendations about sitting down at work

By now, the advice from health experts is clear: we should all sit less. That’s different from their advice to exercise more, because recent research shows that even regular exercise may not make much of a difference if you spend the rest of the day planted on a chair.

Now, the UK government’s Public Health England and a community advocacy group, Active Working CIC, have combed through the data on sitting and developed the first set of recommendations to let people know exactly how much time they should spend standing each day.

MORE: Sitting Is Killing You

According to the recommendation, written by health experts and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people should aim to stand at least two hours a day during working hours. This doesn’t have to be all at once, but can be broken up into small periods of standing, pacing, fidgeting or walking—anything but sitting still.

It’s merely a recommendation, not a health mandate, the authors stress, and they don’t even suggest it as guidance that doctors should use to prescribe specific amounts of non-sitting behavior a day. But getting people to think about how much time they spend on their seats and how little time they spend on their feet is the point, the authors say. According to the data cited in the paper, an office worker spends up to 75% of his or her day sitting, and more than half of that comes in long episodes of nearly inert sedentariness lasting 30 minutes or more. Sedentary behavior is linked to a higher risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. “This is an initial guidance, which we do expect to have to evolve with time,” says John Buckley, from the Institute of Medicine at the University of Chester and lead author of the paper in a statement. “As we get more evidence we will hopefully gain more precision.”

MORE: Sitting Can Increase Your Risk of Cancer By Up to 66%

Standing for at least two hours a day is just a first step; the recommendation encourages a standing goal of four working hours a day, roughly half of your working life. Even if you can’t leave your desk long enough to take a walk, trips to the break room or restroom count—as does anything that breaks up a long stretch of time in a chair.

Buckley and his group are already working on gathering more scientific data to refine the recommendation and help employers, workers and doctors get a better handle on how much non-sitting is needed to improve health. The researchers are studying a Virgin Media call center in Sheffield in the UK, where employees are given a choice of a sit-stand desk; the scientists hope to learn more about switching up working positions can impact health, as well as productivity and performance.

MORE: Sitting At Your Desk Is Killing You. Here’s What It Costs To Stop the Destruction

“This is so new, so we’re very excited about seeing whether some of our theories that we’re testing will become clearer,” he says. And hopefully by then, more of the world will be standing when they read the results.

TIME Research

Here’s How Revolting Your Contact Lenses Are

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People who wear contacts have eye bugs that more closely resemble skin than normal eyes

The magic clear disks that bring your world into focus may be doing some bad things to your eye bacteria, a new study suggests.

“The eye has a normal community of bacteria, expected to confer resistance to invaders,” says senior study investigator Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, PhD, associate professor of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University School of Medicine. But inserting contact lenses seems to mess with that delicate balance, the researchers found.

They wanted to compare the colonies of bacteria living on the eyeballs of people who wear contact lenses to the eyes of those who don’t, so they recruited 20 people in the new research, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. They swabbed different parts of the eye, sequenced the bacteria and found major differences between lens-wearers and people who didn’t wear lenses. Bacteria inside the eyes of contacts-wearers looked more like the colonies of bacteria found on their skin than those normally found in eyes, compared to the normal bacteria of the lens-free group.

That might be because finger skin bacteria lingers on the lenses, which is then transferred to the eye’s surface, suggests Dominguez-Bello. Another possible explanation: the lenses may favor skin-like bacteria over the kind normally found in the eye.

Either way, it doesn’t look good for lens-wearers, who had enriched communities of pathogens that play key roles in conjunctivitis, keratitis and endophthalmitis—all inflammatory eye conditions, says Dominguez-Bello. Using contact lenses has been linked to eye diseases and infections and is considered a risk factor for keratitis.

The study is too small and preliminary to warrant eye-care changes, but Dominguez-Bello calls for more research on the eye microbiome, a bacteria-rich community overlooked in the growing microbiome research focused on the gut and skin. “Despite being important in ophthalmology, the eye microbiome has been largely neglected, and its functions remain unknown,” she says.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Research on Mice Suggests We Could Be Better Off Eating More Healthy Carbs and Less Protein

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Bad news for the Paleo crowd

While calorie-restriction diets are known to have positive health benefits, a group of researchers in Australia has found that, in mice, a low-protein high-carbohydrate diet produces similar results regardless of caloric intake.

If the study bears out for humans, it could rehabilitate the image of carbohydrates, which has taken a battering in recent years, when the high-protein Atkins and Paleo diets have reigned supreme.

Scientists at the University of Sydney put mice on varying diets in terms of the proportion of carbohydrates, protein and total calories consumed. They found that, in terms of insulin, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, mice on unrestricted low-protein high-carb diets fared best.

“It still holds true that reducing food intake and body weight improves metabolic health and reduces the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease,” said senior author Stephen Simpson of the University of Sydney. “However…it appears that including modest intakes of high-quality protein and plenty of healthy carbohydrates in the diet will be beneficial for health as we age.”

The next step, according to the scientists, will be to learn if specific types of proteins and carbohydrates make a difference in long-term health.

TIME Research

U.S. Teen Trends In Sex, Bullying, Booze and More

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Good news: Today's teens experience notably low rates of bullying, drinking, pregnancy and unprotected sex

The latest statistics on teenagers paint a rosy portrait of American teens. They’re drinking, smoking and bullying less than they used to, and fewer are getting pregnant.

“Adolescence is an inherently risky time,” says Dr. Stephanie Zaza, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) division of adolescent and school health. “They are stretching their wings. We can’t eliminate all risk, but we are seeing overall good trends in all areas.”

Here’s a snapshot on teen behavior, based on recent reports:

Bullying

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics showed bullying at school was on the decline. Bullying among kids ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22% in 2013. The rate is lower than the 28-32% that was reported in all other survey years since 2005. Even cyberbullying—the use of electronic services to harass someone—has dropped. Only 6.9% of students reported being cyberbullied in 2013 compared to 9% in 2011.

Zaza adds that bullying has often targeted LGBTQ youth, and with increasing acceptance and major policy changes regarding same-sex marriage in the news, social norms regarding sexuality may be changing too, and that may contribute to less fighting.

Smoking

Teens are smoking less, too. In the last CDC National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which analyzes health risk behaviors among high school students, revealed that the high school smoking rate had dropped to 15.7%, the lowest recorded level since the survey started in 1991. It meant that the CDC had met its goal of lowering the adolescent smoking rate to under 16% by 2020, several years early.

Zaza says what’s responsible is a combination of widespread public health initiatives and changing social norms. “When you look at excise taxes, smoking bans, quit lines, campaigns and innovations in therapies, you see this amazing trend in adult and youth tobacco use,” says Zaza. “With all of those changes came a really big change in the social norms around smoking.”

Still, data from the CDC suggests that while high schools are smoking fewer cigarettes, e-cigarette use tripled among middle and high schoolers in just one year.

Drinking

The number of students who drink alcohol also dropped. Though it was still high at 35%, teens reported less physical fighting in school, and most students who were sexually active used condoms.

Sex and Babies

National teen pregnancy rates are also at a record low, with recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showing a continuous drop over the last 20 years, with a 10% decline just between 2012 and 2013. It’s unclear what is driving the decrease, but it appears teenagers are less sexually active than they have been in the past, and teens that are sexually active report using some form of birth control.

“There’s no doubt birth control and sex education are the most important factors in reducing unintended teen pregnancy,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood said in an email. “Teens are increasingly using IUDs and implants, which are the most reliable methods of birth control.”

America’s teen pregnancy rate is at a record low, but it’s still higher than many developing countries.

Texting While Driving etc.

Zaza says she’s worried about the number of teens who text and drive—41%—as well as the nearly 18% of teens who report using prescription drugs without a prescription.

“I worry about these numbers,” says Zaza, adding that there’s still room for improvement.

TIME Research

Mixing Booze and Pot Greatly Increases the Amount of THC in Your Blood

Cannabis
WIN-Initiative—Getty Images/WIN-Initiative RM

That poses serious questions for road safety

Although marijuana and alcohol are frequently used together, there has been little research into how the two substances react. A new study reported on in Science Daily, however, shows that when they are mixed the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — marijuana’s active ingredient — in a person’s blood is far higher than if marijuana is smoked on its own.

Because the combination of alcohol and cannabis is the most common one detected in car accidents, the research looked at the two drugs from the point of view of vehicle safety.

Scientists examined 19 people drinking alcohol, or a placebo, in low doses ten minutes before inhaling vaporized cannabis in either a low or high dose. When alcohol was consumed, a far higher blood concentration of THC emerged.

When the two drugs were taken together, researchers concluded that the possibility of vehicular crashes increased considerably than if only one drug was taken, Science Daily reports.

“The significantly higher blood THC … values with alcohol possibly explain increased performance impairment observed from cannabis-alcohol combinations,” said lead researcher Dr. Marilyn A. Huestis.

Researchers hope the information will create better drug-related driving legislation.

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

How to Know If Your Birth Control Pill Is a Risk for Blood Clots

TIME.com stock photos Birth Control Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

See which brands contain ingredients that may be more harmful than not

It’s been known for quite some time that the Pill may increase a woman’s risk for blood clots, but the risk is thought to be low. As TIME reported on Tuesday, the study showed that women on the Pill had around a three times higher risk of blood clots compared to women who weren’t using the oral contraceptives. The risk appeared to be greater for women taking newer versions of the hormone progestogen, including drospirenone, desogestrel, gestodene and cyproterone. Older versions of the hormone, including levonorgestrel and norethisterone, had better results. You can read more here about why these versions may have a higher risk.

So, how do you know if your birth control pills contain ingredients that might be more harmful than not? Drospirenone and desogestrel are both approved for use in the U.S., and can be used in combination with other ingredients. We broke down which birth control brands contain them, according to approval data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Gestodene and cyproterone are currently not approved for use in contraceptives in the states. There may also be other brands of the contraceptives that contain these ingredients available in other countries.

Drospirenone
Angeliq
Beyaz
Loryna
Nikki
Safyral
Syeda
Yaela
Yasmin
Yaz

Desogestrel
Cyclessa
Desogen
Emoquette
Enskyce
Kariva
Kimidess
Mircette
Ortho-Cept
Pimtrea
Velivet
Viorele

Read next: Why the Best Form of Birth Control Is the One No One Uses

TIME Research

FAA Will Study Pilots’ Mental Health

A committee will provide recommendations within six months

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Wednesday it would study the mental and emotional health of pilots, a move that comes more than two months after investigators say a German pilot flew a commercial jet into the French Alps, killing all 150 people aboard.

While pilots are required to undergo medical screenings with agency-approved physicians once or twice a year, the study was recommended in the wake of tragedies like the crash Germanwings Flight 9525 in March and the early 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean.

The FAA said in a statement that the Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC)—to be comprised of government members and aviation experts, as well as medical professionals whose specialty is aerospace medicine—will look into awareness and reporting practices for emotional and mental issues among pilots. The committee, which will also probe the procedures used to evaluate mental health issues and any barriers to reporting them, will provide the FAA with recommendations within six months.

“Based on the group’s recommendations,” according to the statement, “the FAA may consider changes to medical methods, aircraft design, policies and procedures, pilot training and testing, training for Aerospace Medical Examiners, or potential actions that may be taken by professional, airline, or union groups.”

Read next: German Privacy Laws Let Pilot ‘Hide’ His Illness From Employers

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