TIME health

6 Ways Your Phone is Hurting Your Health and Happiness

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Research suggests that your phone could be doing more harm than good

More than 1.8 million smartphones are sold daily and the average American spends well over three hours a day on the phone. We stay plugged in while we eat, sleep, and even while we use the bathroom. It’s safe to say we’re addicted to our phones. But staying connected at all times is taking a serious toll.

Texting destroys your posture.

“Text neck” is a real condition, and it’s not pretty. Peering down at your phone while you text, read, or surf the web puts an unnecessary strain on your spine, according to recent research published in the National Library of Medicine. When standing upright, the average head places 10 to 12 pounds of force on the cervical spine, but just a 15-degree tilt increases that weight to 27 pounds, and a 60-degree one to 60 pounds. The extra spine stress can lead to earlier wear and tear on your spine, and even require surgery in the worst cases.

Your phone could be making you sick.

If your phone is basically your fifth limb, even those who wash their hands regularly could be carrying around a lot more germs than they think. The Wall Street Journal conducted an experiment in which it tested eight random phones from its office. Every single one carried high levels of a bacteria suggesting fecal contamination. Many phones even carry more germs than a toilet seat.

Those earbuds might be damaging your hearing.

Turn down the volume. Thirty-five percent of adults and almost 60 percent of teenagers listen to personal music devices at loud volumes. When more than 30 percent of Americans older than 20 have suffered some loss of high-frequency hearing, those are scary numbers. Whether or not cranking the tunes will actually affect your hearing depends on the individual. Some people have more sensitive ears, and those earbud listeners could notice hearing loss after listening for only a couple hours each day, Time reports. While it all depends on your phone’s volume and how you’re personally affected by sound, the safest bet is to turn down the music.

Texting affects your balance.

You should never text and drive, and you shouldn’t text and walk either. Cell phone and walking-related emergency room visits are on the rise, according to research from Ohio State University. The most common offenders? Sixteen to 25-year-olds. “The role of cell phones in distracted driving injuries and deaths gets a lot of attention and rightly so,” co-author Jack Nasar said in a statement. “But we need to also consider the danger cell phone use poses to pedestrians.”

Texting while walking not only distracts, but can also knock you off balance. Australian researchers examined the speed and patterns of people walking while texting and found that they showed a slower walking speed and that they veered from a straight line. So, while you definitely shouldn’t drive while you text, you shouldn’t walk while you type away either.

Cell phones can hurt relationships.

Even though texting may seem like a quick and easy way to stay connected to the ones you love, research suggests that texting too much can actually hurt your relationship. Brigham Young University researchers found that texting to apologize or resolve conflicts resulted in a lower relationship quality for women. And receiving too many texts left men with a lower relationship quality. But it’s not all bad, expressing affection through texts enhanced the relationship for both men and women. So, go ahead and text over “I love yous” regularly—but leave the arguments and in-depth conversations for the next time you see each other.

You probably lose sleep over your phone.

Almost 75 percent of 18-to-44-year-olds sleep with their phones only an arm’s reach away. Unfortunately, the blue light emitted from electronics, like laptops and cell phones, can have a terrible effect on our sleep. Artificial light at night stops our body from producing the chemicals that make us tired, and instead leaves us feeling more awake, The Huffington Post reports.

Plus, the constant pings, buzzing, and light from incoming texts and emails can hurt our sleep patterns. A Swedish study showed that the feeling of being constantly plugged in can cause stress that cuts into sleep and can even increase the risk of depression in some cases. In other words, the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to keep your phone far away from your bed.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

More from Real Simple:

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 6

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

1. China is the key to solving the problem of North Korea.

By Christopher Hill in Project Syndicate

2. Squeezing cells to make their walls temporarily permeable could open the door to new cancer and HIV treatments.

By Kevin Bullis at MIT Technology Review

3. Survivors of domestic violence are getting immediate protection from their abusers via videoconference with a court officer from their hospital beds.

By Laura Starecheski at National Public Radio

4. Japan is testing underwater turbines to harness the power of ocean currents for clean energy.

By Brian Merchant in Motherboard from Vice

5. Drones are the new tool of choice for biologists and ecologists studying endangered species.

By Aviva Rutkin 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

Longer Rest After Concussions Might Not Be Good, Study Says

Research calls into question the five-day waiting period

Concussion patients who wait several days to resume physical activity after receiving a hit may be more likely to suffer symptoms of the condition, a new study suggests. The research calls into question the five-day waiting period for concussion patients recommended by some doctors.

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, compared patients who waited five days to resume physical activity with those who waited one or two days. Patients who waited longer were more likely to report suffering from headaches and nausea in the first few days after the concussion and emotional symptoms in the 10 days following the blow.

The study looked at almost 100 concussion patients between the ages of 11 and 22 who had been admitted to the emergency room with a concussion. The findings do not necessarily apply to patients with more severe concussions.

None of the patients in the study were hospitalized.

TIME Cancer

Most Types of Cancer Just ‘Bad Luck,’ Researchers Say

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Lymphocytes and cancer cell JUAN GARTNER—Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

Two thirds of cancers could be explained as biological misfortune

Researchers have found that bad luck plays a major role in determining most types of cancer, rather than genetics or risky lifestyle choices such as smoking.

The results, published in the journal Science on Thursday, found that random DNA mutations that amass in the body when stem cells divide into various tissues cause two thirds of cancers.

After examining 31 cancer types, researchers found 22 were from mutations in stem cells that could not be prevented.

Cancers that could be explained with biological bad luck included pancreatic, leukemia, bone, testicular, ovarian and brain cancer.

But the researchers say lifestyle choices such as avoiding smoking, eating healthily and staying out of the sun will help to prevent certain cancers, just not all of them.

Read next: Medicine Is About to Get Personal

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Research

Why Police Aren’t Catching Drunk Drivers

There are almost 300,000 incidents of drunk driving each day, but less than 4,000 of those incidents result in arrest

Drunk driving kills 10,000 Americans every year. That’s a third of car accident deaths and a number only slightly lower than the number who die in firearm homicides. But, even as drunk driving remains prevalent and dangerous, legislators and police have dragged their feet in enacting and implementing proven measures to curb the practice. More than anything else, it’s just not their top priority.

“Most police knows that there’s still a lot of drunk driving going on and that they should enforce [laws to stop it], but there’s other competing issues now,” said James C. Fell, an expert on traffic safety enforcement programs at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. “They can’t put all their marbles into the impaired driving enforcement. They’ve got to do other things.”

But even as police face a host of other issues, Fell says there are some measures that can be easily implemented that have been proven to reduce deaths. Communities where police conduct more traffic stops tend to have fewer incidents of drunk driving, according to Fell’s recent study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

“They see the police, they know they’re enforcing the law, and it deters drinking and driving,” said Fell, who worked at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 30 years.

Other research suggests that sobriety check points, where police stop all traffic to conduct field sobriety tests, can similarly reduce deaths. But police departments simply aren’t doing them, at least not at the necessary scale. Only 3% of Americans drive in jurisdictions where police set up weekly sobriety check points, recent research suggests.

“They’re not very popular. Police don’t like doing them,” said Fell of the checks. “They think it’s resource intensive and they feel like they can be more productive patrolling the streets.”

Police departments contacted by TIME expressed confidence in the effectiveness of sobriety checks, but also noted their expense.

Lieutenant Kraig Gray of the Greenwich, CT Police Department said his department receives grant money to increase police presence throughout the holiday season and typically sets up a sobriety check point at one point during the season. It’s a step in the right direction, but a far cry from the weekly check points that Fell says are most effective.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sets up many more check points across the cities and areas it works with to provide increased enforcement to combat drunk driving.

“One of the aspects of DUI checkpoints is education,” said Daniel Dail, a sergeant at the department. “We want people to think that the cops are everywhere.”

But, like in many places across the country, drivers who encounter sobriety check points in Los Angeles are offered an easy escape. The check points are required to allow for what Dail describes as an “escape route.” If a car turns away, the police won’t pursue it.

For the drivers who are caught, there are often few penalties beyond a night in the so-called drunk tank, something police say is out of their hands.

A number of factors may contribute to a prosecutor’s decision of whether to prosecute, according to Joanne Thomka of the National District Attorneys Association. At the top of the list is a question of resources, said Thomka. Given that drunk driving cases are “some of the most complex cases” to prosecute, Thomka said that district attorneys sometimes decide they’re not worth pursuing.

“Is there enough equipment for officers to do testing? Are prosecutors all trained properly? Do we have enough prosecutors?” said Thomka, citing common questions asked by officers before pursuing a drunk driving case.

To be fair, the devastating effects of drunk driving on society have declined over time thanks to a massive increase in awareness and enforcement, in part initiated by police. “Those who were raised in the us over the last 25 years have gotten the message that DWI is not cool,” said Gray.

Still, the bottom line is that drunk drivers today are unlikely like to be caught and even less likely to be prosecuted. There are almost 300,000 incidents of drunk driving each day, but less than 4,000 of those incidents result in arrest. Driving drunk may not be cool, but it’s definitely still happening.

TIME toxins

Meet Nanosilver—The Tiny Pesticides In Your Food Products

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The EPA got sued for failing to regulate these particles

If you haven’t heard of nanosilver, you’re definitely not alone. But that doesn’t mean these tiny silver particles intended to kill bacteria aren’t ending up in your food. There are now over 400 consumer products on the market made with nanosilver. These include many intended for use with food, among them cutting boards, cutlery, pans, storage containers, espresso machines, water filters, baby bottles, and refrigerators.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers nanosilver a pesticide and requires products that contain–or are treated with this germ-killer–to be registered with and approved for use by the agency. But most of the nanosilver products now on the market have not been reviewed, let alone approved by the EPA.

Just a few weeks ago, in an attempt to close this loophole, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Production Action, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and other nonprofits filed suit against the EPA for failing to respond to their 2008 petition, asking the agency to regulate all products containing nanosilver as pesticides.

Why all the fuss?

As the name implies, nanosilver is silver used at the nanoscale, in the realm of billionths of a meter. To put this in perspective, one strand of human hair is about 50,000 to 80,000 nanometers wide. What makes nanomaterials so interesting to scientists designing new materials is that at this infinitesimal scale, materials can behave entirely differently than they do at either the macro or micro scales.

At the nanoscale, materials can take on chemical, physical, and biological properties that they might not otherwise have. And there are still many of unknowns, even in the scientific community, about how nanomaterials behave.

It is known that nanosilver can kill bacteria and microbes, so manufacturers are including it as a sort of antiseptic safeguard in food contact products that might harbor bacteria (i.e., that pesky cutting board on your kitchen counter.) But exactly how nanosilver behaves once released into the environment or absorbed into the human body, is not yet well understood. A number of studies show that consumer products, including textiles and plastics, can shed nanosilver particles. In fact, these particles have been detected in wastewater and sewage sludge.

Recent studies also show that nanosilver has the potential to harm and stress cells in ways that include causing damage to DNA.

Among the concerns raised by the growing use of nanosilver as antimicrobial agents in consumer products, explains Center for Food Safety’s Senior Policy Analyst Jaydee Hanson, is that it, like other antibacterial ingredients, “may lead to bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.”

Despite the many gaps in understanding the environmental and human health impacts of nanomaterials, the EPA has already granted what’s called “conditional approval” to some nanosilver products, saying the silver released will not cause unreasonable adverse effects.

This brings us back to EPA oversight and approval. So far, the EPA has only reviewed the few nanosilver products that manufacturers have submitted to the agency for registration as pesticides. Under the law, manufacturers must have EPA approval to make claims about a product’s germ-killing ability. The agency has enforced this law, taking a number of nanosilver products off the market, as it did earlier this year with some sold widely by retailers that included Amazon, Pathway, Sears, and Walmart.

According to the recent lawsuit, however, other manufacturers have simply changed their product labels to remove germ-killing claims, in an effort to avoid EPA enforcement or product scrutiny. These products, however, may still contain nanomaterials.

In short, the plaintiffs contend that EPA is not regulating nanosilver products comprehensively as required under the U.S. law governing pesticides.

Asked about any EPA approval of nanosilver for use in food-contact products, an EPA spokesperson responded by email explaining that the agency “has approved nanosilver for use as a non-food-contact preservative to protect plastics and textiles … from odor and stain causing bacteria, fungi, mold, and mildew.” But they did not respond about food contact products directly.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates chemicals used in food contact products, responded by saying it has “not approved the use of silver nanomaterial for use as a food ingredient added to food or as a food contact substance.” So while EPA has approved some nanosilver products for use in plastics, its approval does not cover food-contact products of the type that are now being sold–without FDA approval.

To make matters more confusing, in a “guidance document” issued last June, the FDA said it had “not established regulatory definitions of “nanotechnology,” “nanomaterial,” “nanoscale,” or other related terms.” The same document also says safety evaluations of such products should consider their “unique” characteristics.

The bottom line appears to be that both EPA and FDA–the agencies responsible for regulating chemicals used in consumer products–acknowledge significant gaps in understanding the behavior and toxicity of nanomaterials, including nanosilver. Yet such products–including those for use with food–are growing in number and availability while research shows that nanosilver can indeed escape from these items.

So what happens next? “The EPA hopefully will say they want to settle,” and develop a legally binding “timeline to respond to the petition,” says CFS’ Hanson. In the meantime, nanosilver may be finding its way from these materials into the food we eat. If you’re concerned about their potential environmental and health effects, you might want to stay away from kitchen items that claim to kill germs and follow good food safety practices instead.

This article originally appeared on Civil Eats.

TIME Research

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Being a Woman

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Being a woman carries a host of health and body payoffs

Members of the so-called weaker sex, listen up. Thanks in part to the protective benefits of female hormones, as well as the lifestyle choices women tend to make, you’re afforded a host of body payoffs guys don’t get. “Men notoriously pay less attention to their health and prefer to take a macho approach rather than go to the doctor to get things checked out,” says J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. The following 10 ways women come out on top health-wise will make you glad you were born with two X chromosomes.

Women blow out more birthday candles

When it comes to longevity, chicks rule. A girl born in 2012 (the most recent year statistics are available) can expect to live until age 81.2; a boy is likely to hit 76.4, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what accounts for those extra four years. “It might have to do with the fact that women have lower rates of heart disease compared to men, though women are catching up,” explains Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the women’s heart program at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “But it may be a result of women maintaining stronger social ties to friends and family, because social ties are linked to longevity.

Women have a higher pain tolerance

The notion that men face pain with unflinching stoicism while women are more sensitive to every ache is not exactly reflected in research. Though the jury is still officially out, numerous studies back up the fact that women appear to have a higher pain threshold than men, says Dr. Goldberg, with pain threshold defined as the amount of pain it takes to register in the body. Of course, it makes sense that females need to be able to withstand pain, considering how much of it is typically experienced during childbirth. “Women have to be able to sustain the agony during labor and delivery,” says Dr. Goldberg.

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Head and neck cancers strike more men than women

The statistics tell the story: the National Cancer Society estimates that this year, about 30,000 men will be diagnosed with oral cavity or pharynx cancer, while just 12,000 women will. And when it comes to esophageal cancer, 14,000 men can expect to develop it this year, compared to only 3,000 women. Why do head and neck cancers discriminate so openly based on sex? Cancers that occur in these body areas are strongly linked to tobacco and alcohol use. “Though women are catching up, men still indulge is smoking and drinking in higher numbers, so they develop these cancers in higher numbers too,” says Dr. Lichtenfeld.

Melanoma rates are lower in older women

Before age 45, rates of melanoma—the least common yet deadliest form of skin cancer—are higher in women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It’s a trend researchers attribute to the popularity of tanning indoors and out. But after that point, it’s men who bear the brunt of the disease in more significant numbers. “It’s unusual for melanoma to strike at a young age, and by the time they reach their 50s and 60s, we start to see high numbers of white men with it, probably due to accumulated skin damage over time after decades of working outside, or playing outdoor sports, without the benefit of sunscreen,” says Dr. Lichtenfeld.

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Women have a keener sense of smell

No wonder candles, soaps, detergents, and perfumes cater to female noses. Compared to men, women appear to have a sharper odor detection, with women having up to 50% more cells in their olfactory bulb (the first region of the brain to receive signals about odors), according to a recent study in the journal PLOS ONE. The study lends weight to the idea that women are superior sniffers, but it doesn’t explain why. One theory: a keener sense of smell helps women detect the pheromones that help her pick the right mate; another postulates that being able to detect rancid odors helps a woman protect her offspring from infection and disease.

HDL cholesterol levels are higher in women

HDL cholesterol, the good kind, is associated with strong heart health. It’s credited with preventing plaque buildup in the arteries of premenopausal women and protecting them from the early heart disease that may already be developing in men in the same age group. “Estrogen raises good cholesterol throughout a woman’s childbearing years, when estrogen production peaks,” says Goldberg. Estrogen output drops off following menopause, and HDL cholesterol goes with it. But if you continue to eat nutritiously, stay at a healthy weight, and have your cholesterol tested regularly, your HDL cholesterol numbers can continue to stay in a healthy range so you can maintain that estrogen-fueled head start against heart disease.

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The female brain has better recall

Several scientific studies suggest what a lot of women already know anecdotally: women are simply better at remembering things. A 2014 Norwegian study of about 37,000 people from the journal BMC Psychology bears this out: though older people in general had more memory issues, men of all ages, young and old, were more forgetful than their female counterparts. Why that is isn’t exactly clear, but previous research has suggested that it may be due to brain degeneration caused by cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, both of which strike more men than women.

Women are less likely to become alcoholics

“Men are up to twice as likely to develop alcoholism as women are,” explains Holly Phillips, MD, New York City women’s health specialist and medical contributor for WCBS News. One reason for a guy’s increased risk of addiction to booze has to do with the brain chemical dopamine, says Dr. Phillips. A recent study of male and female social drinkers found that men had a greater dopamine release than women in an area of the brain called the ventral striatum, which is strongly associated with pleasure, reinforcement, and addiction formation. There may be a psychological component as well. “While women are more likely to become depressed than men in response to common environmental triggers such as illness or grieving a death—a process some psychologists see as turning pain inward—men may be more likely to numb the pain with substances,” adds Dr. Phillips.

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Women tend to accumulate less belly fat

Instead of bemoaning the fact that you tend to pack extra pounds on your butt, hips, and thighs, be happy about it—it means your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases is lower than if fat tended to develop across your midsection, as it generally does in men. “Apple-shaped bodies, which more men have, hold more fat around the heart and upper abdomen, increasing heart disease risk,” says Dr. Phillips. “Pear shaped bodies keep fat away from the heart, which is a good thing.” Fat around the middle can also increase the risk of certain cancers, says Dr. Lichtenfeld. Researchers are learning that belly fat is metabolically active, producing hormones that cause a chain reaction in the body, resulting in higher levels of inflammation and insulin resistance, which leads to disease.

Women have a delayed heart attack risk

While a man’s odds of developing heart disease and having a major coronary begin in his 40s or even earlier, says Dr. Phillips, a woman’s risk doesn’t really begin until after she hits 50 and goes through menopause—giving women some extra time before being susceptible to the number one killer of both men and women. “Women have their first heart attack a full 10 years after men do,” says Dr. Goldberg. A younger woman’s better cholesterol profile plays a role, but estrogen or lifestyle choices, such as eating healthier, seems to have additional protective benefits, such as keeping blood pressure down (high blood pressure is a heart attack risk factor). However, things change after menopause. “After 50, a woman’s vulnerability to heart disease begins to resemble that of males,” says Dr. Phillips.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Biology

Smartphone Use Makes Your Brain More Sensitive to Touch

Apple Launches iPhone 5s And 5c In China
A customer inspects the new iPhone at the Wangfujing flagship store on September 20, 2013 in Beijing, China. Lintao Zhang—Getty

New study finds that brain activity is enhanced the more we thumb our devices

Swiping fingers across a smartphone screen can make the brain more sensitive to the touch of the finger tips, a new study suggests.

The study, published in Current Biology this week, shows that brain response to thumb stimulation is partly explained by how often people use their smartphones, reports the Washington Post.

“I was really surprised by the scale of the changes introduced by the use of smartphones,” said Arko Ghosh, one of the study’s authors from the Institute of Neuroinformatics at the University of Zurich.

Researchers recorded brain activity when people touched their thumbs, index and middle fingers to a mechanical object. Smartphone users broadcasted increased activity compared to non-smartphone users, and the activity was boosted the more people used their devices.

[Washington Post]

TIME Diet/Nutrition

10 Biggest Food and Weight Loss Stories of 2014

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I can’t believe it’s been a year since I compiled my last round-up, but it’s that time again! As a research junkie, I think this year’s crop of studies in the areas of nutrition and weight management have been particularly fascinating.

Here are my top 10 picks for discoveries that have either broadened our knowledge, or shed new light on the best ways to stay nourished and lean.

Night shift workers burn fewer calories

This intriguing study found that shift workers burn fewer calories, which means that the amount of food needed to maintain weight becomes excessive, promoting weight gain. The lesson: if your job requires working when most people are sleeping, find ways to curb your calorie intake, or employ healthy habits to help regulate or suppress your appetite.

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Gut bacteria play a major role in weight control

Number one on my list of the compelling revelations in 2014 is the handful of studies about the role of gut microorganisms in weight management. One study found that there is a relationship between body clock regulation, gut microbiota, and metabolism. When mice received gut bacteria from jet-lagged humans, they gained significant amounts of weight and had abnormally high blood sugar levels (yikes!). Another found that gut bacteria affect cravings, mood, and food choices. And a third concluded that the healthfulness of gut bacteria may play a role in metabolic syndrome risk. All of this research may lead to a future that involves personalized gut microbe testing, special diets specifically designed to alter these organisms, or tailored probiotic therapy. Stay tuned!

Coffee may help prevent obesity

If there’s one thing my clients love, it’s hearing that a food they enjoy is actually beneficial. Two studies this year offered some good news about java. Animal research from researchers at the University of Georgia concluded that a compound in coffee called CGA allowed mice fed a fatty diet to not only stave off weight gain, but also maintain normal blood sugar levels and healthy livers. Another Spanish study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, found that athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned about 15% more calories for three hours post-exercise, compared to those who gulped down a placebo. For more about other potential health benefits of enjoying your morning cup of Joe, check out my post 6 Healthy Reasons to Keep Loving Coffee.

HEALTH.COM: Best and Worst Health News of 2014

Obesity tied to autoimmune diseases

We’ve heard plenty about the connection between obesity and chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. But research from Tel Aviv University concluded that obesity leads to a breakdown of the body’s protective self-tolerance mechanisms, which results in a pro-inflammatory environment that may lead to or worsen autoimmune diseases, including Crohn’s Disease and multiple sclerosis, or hinder their treatment. The silver lining: adequate vitamin D may help, both with immunity and weight control. Here’s more about vitamin D, and 6 other nutrients to zero in on as you age.

In women, optimism affects diet quality

There aren’t a lot of feel-good studies tied to weight management, but I loved the conclusion of this one from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, researchers found that those with higher levels of optimism made healthier choices, and had more success in making dietary changes over a one-year period. Those who scored better on the healthy eating index also had lower BMIs, smaller waist measurements, and fewer chronic health conditions. More proof that attitude is everything.

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There’s a new type of good fat

When scientists say they’re blown away, it’s pretty big news. And that’s just what researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center declared when they uncovered a previously unidentified class of fat molecules that enhance blood sugar control, and may offer a promising avenue for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Unlike omega-3 fatty acids, which are not made in mammals, these “good” fats, called FAHFAs, are produced and broken down in the body. Feeding mice extra FAHFAs resulted in a rapid and dramatic drop in blood sugar. Scientists also looked at FAHFA levels in humans, and found they were 50 to 75% lower in those who were insulin resistant and at high risk for developing diabetes. The data suggest that changes in FAHFA levels may contribute to diabetes. Groundbreaking. Surely there will be more research to come in this area.

Produce is connected to happiness

I love getting my hands on any research related to happiness, so I was thrilled to find this study, which tied healthy food choices to mental health. Scientists at the University of Warwick’s Medical School found that five daily servings of produce may just keep the blues away. More than a third of subjects with high mental well-being consumed five or more daily servings of fruits and veggies. In contrast, happiness was high in less than 7% of those who ate less than one daily portion of produce. In another study in young adults, a higher fruit and veggie intake was tied to “flourishing,” which includes greater happiness, creativity, curiosity, and positivity. For more about how eating well can bolster your mood, check out my post 5 Reasons to Eat Healthier Than Have Nothing to Do With Your Weight.

Umami may curb eating

A very foodie-forward study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that umami—also known as the 5th taste—boosts appetite but also increases post-meal satiety, which may help support weight control. Naturally found in mushrooms, truffles, green tea, seaweed, and tomatoes, incorporating more of this this unique palate pleaser may help you naturally eat less overall. To give it a try, check out my tips on umami, which include suggestions for now to sneak it into healthy meals.

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“Fat shaming” causes weight gain, not loss

I think we all intuitively know this is true, yet weight bullying persists, even if it’s self-directed. In this U.K. study, researchers found that over four years, those who reported weight discrimination gained weight, whereas those who didn’t actually shed pounds. So if you tend to berate yourself, with a goal of weight loss motivation, stop. And for techniques that work check out my post 5 Dos and Don’ts for Weight Loss Motivation.

Language stimulates the brain in the same way as food

This compelling study found that the reward region of the brain that drives us to eat (and also enjoy sex, gambling, drugs, and games) is stimulated by learning new words and their meanings. Interesting! I can’t guarantee it will work, but when a craving strikes, try visiting a site like vocabulary.com to see if logging some lingo time will satisfy your fix.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME Research

11 Remarkable Health Advances From 2014

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And what to look forward to in 2015

From groundbreaking new drugs to doctor-assisted suicide, 2o14 was full of historic moments that are bound to play on in a big way throughout 2015 and beyond.

1. 3D Mammography is proven to be effective
Multiple studies in 2014 showed 3-D mammography to be a highly accurate screening tool for detecting breast cancer with fewer false positive results. It’s not widely available yet, but the growing evidence suggests we’ll see more adoption in 2015. Hologic, one of two U.S. companies selling 3-D mammography machines, told TIME there’s growing interest, with at least one of their machines in all 50 states.

2. The number of uninsured Americans nears record low
Federal data released Dec. 18 revealed that the percentage of uninsured Americans neared historic lows in 2014 at 11.3%. As TIME reported, it appears certain to fall to record lows next year.

3. Brittany Maynard wins support for “death with dignity”
After she discovered she had terminal brain cancer, Maynard, 29, chose to end her own life in the company of her family and friends by taking prescribed barbiturates on Nov. 1. Maynard moved from California to Oregon for the state’s death with dignity law that allows doctors to prescribe lethal medications for the terminally ill. A video of Maynard explaining her choice went viral, and a recent poll showed most U.S. doctors now support death with dignity.

MORE: TIME’s Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters

4. CVS stops selling cigarettes
In February, CVS announced it would stop sales of cigarettes and tobacco products in its 7,600 U.S. stores by Oct. 1. Tobacco products made up about 3% of the company’s annual revenue. Anti-smoking advocates were pleased by the move.

5. Way more calorie counts are coming
The FDA rolled out new rules in November that require chains—including restaurants, movie theaters, vending machines and amusement parts—with 20 or more locations to list their calories for all their food and drinks. Companies have a year to comply.

6. The FDA unveils new nutrition labels
In a similar move, the FDA revealed in February proposed changes to nutritional labels that will put greater emphasis on calories, added sugars and have more realistic serving sizes. Calories will be listed in bigger and bolder type, and may be listed on the front of food packaging.

MORE: 3D Mammograms Are Better For Dense Breasts

7. The Sunscreen Innovation Act becomes law
In December, President Obama signed into law the much-anticipated Sunscreen Innovation Act, which requires the FDA to quickly respond to pending sunscreen-ingredient applications that have been awaiting a response for over a decade. There’s a good chance that in summer 2015, we could have a batch of new, up-to-date sunscreens to try.

8. New drugs show promise for heart failure
Novartis is anticipating approval for its new heart failure drug, LCZ696, in the second half of 2015. The drug could replace the current treatment of care: ACE inhibitors. The company’s most recent human clinical trial was forced to end when it apparent LCZ696 saved more lives than standard of care.

9. PillPack offers a new kind of pharmacy
For people on multiple medications, remembering what to take and when can be a medical nightmare. That’s why pharmacist T.J. Parker launched PillPack in 2014. Instead of sending customers bottles, every two weeks the company sends a dispenser that has all the customers’ individual pills sorted and organized by day on a ticker tape sheet of tearable pouches. TIME named it one of the best inventions of 2014.

MORE: New Heart Drug Saves More Lives Than Standard of Care

10. A device literally filters Ebola from blood of a sick patient
One of the most novel treatments during the Ebola outbreak is a device that can suck the Ebola virus out of the blood. Developed by Aethlon Medical, the Hemopurifier is a specially developed cartridge that can be attached to a standard dialysis machine and uses proteins that bind to the Ebola viruses and pull them out of patients’ blood. It’s still experimental, but appears to have worked in at least one patient with Ebola in Germany.

11. The Ebola vaccine shows promise
In August, two vaccines to prevent the deadly Ebola virus went onto human clinical trials. The vaccines are being tested with the hope that it could be deemed effective, and safe enough to be distributed widely in West Africa, where the Ebola crisis rages on.

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