Don’t Feel Bad For ‘Netflix Spring Bingeing’

Call it Netflix’s spring binge.

At the end of March, Netflix released the critically acclaimed “13 Reasons Why.” April featured new shows “Girl Boss” and “Bill Nye Saves the World,” while May’s lineup includes the second season of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” along with the return of binge favorite “House of Cards,” back for its fifth season.

Many will relish getting lost for hours on end in these shows. But others might feel guilty about their extended screen time, seeing it as sign of laziness. Or maybe they’ve seen an article about one of those studies linking binge watching to depression.

As a professor of communication studies, I’m interested in understanding the ways people use TV, video games and social media to improve their well-being. And I’ve learned that even though watching TV gets a bad rap as the “junk food” of media diets, it can be good for you — as long as you give yourself permission to indulge.

Why TV gets the shaft

My colleagues and I collected some data suggesting that there is, in fact, a double standard for how we think about different media bingeing experiences. We administered a survey that recorded participants’ thoughts about reading or watching TV for certain amounts of time.

Respondents associated more attributes like laziness and impulsivity with people who consume several hours of a television show in one sitting, compared to those who do the same with novels.

This finding probably comes as no surprise.

Although reading a novel for several hours at a time for entertainment can arguably be just as sedentary and addictive as watching TV, no derogatory term like “bingeing” exists for the act of devouring an entire Harry Potter novel in one night. We simply call it “reading.”

Just think about the pejorative term “binge,” which conjures images of excess and abuse (as with binge eating or binge drinking). Contrast this with “marathon viewing,” which connotes accomplishment, and has traditionally been used to describe the experience of consuming multiple installments of film – not TV series – in rapid succession.

Why is it that we “binge” when we watch a lot of TV, but it’s a “marathon” when we watch a bunch of movies?

Perhaps this double standard is rooted in television’s lower status as a source of entertainment. Historically, TV viewing has been considered a mindless activity, capable of dulling the intellect with “a vast wasteland” of shallow, lowbrow content. Watching TV has also been regarded as a lazy activity that displaces time spent on more active, productive pursuits. Avid viewers of the “boob tube” or “idiot box” will get stereotyped as “lazy couch potatoes.”

Meanwhile, headline-grabbing research linking TV viewing to depression and loneliness hasn’t helped binge viewing’s reputation. These correlational studies may give the misleading impression that only depressed or lonely people engage in binge watching —– or worse, that binge viewing can make people depressed and lonely.

In truth, it’s just as likely that people who are depressed or lonely due to unrelated life circumstances (say, unemployment or a break-up) simply choose to spend their time binge watching. There’s no evidence to suggest that binge watching actually makes people depressed or lonely.

The good news about binge watching

But binge viewing TV has become popular for a good reason: Despite its negative reputation, television has never been better. We are in the midst of a golden age of television, with a variety of shows that provide a steady diet of novel premises, long-running, elaborate plots and morally complicated characters. Far from dulling the intellect, these shows create more suspense, interest and opportunities for critical engagement.

According to journalist and media theorist Steven Johnson, watching these shows may even make you smarter. He argues that because television narratives have become increasingly complex, they require viewers to follow more storyline threads and juggle more characters and relationships. All of this makes the audience more cognitively sophisticated.

Gorging on stories is pleasurable, too. When individuals binge watch, they are thought to have what’s called a “flow experience.” Flow is an intrinsically pleasurable feeling of being completely immersed in a show’s storyline. In a flow state of mind, viewers intently focus on following the story and it’s easier for them to lose awareness of other things, including time, while they’re wrapped up in viewing. One study found that viewers will continue viewing additional episodes in order to maintain this positive flow state, so there is an addictive quality to binge viewing. Interruptions like advertising can break the continuous viewing cycle by disrupting the flow state and drawing viewers out of the story. Luckily, for TV bingers, Netflix and Hulu are ad-free.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits binge watching can offer is psychological escape from daily stresses. What better way to decompress than watching four (or seven) straight episodes of “House of Cards”? A 2014 study found that people who were particularly drained after stressful work or school experiences watched TV to recharge and recuperate.

Unfortunately, this study also found that TV watching didn’t help everybody. Individuals who bought into the “lazy couch potato” stereotype enjoyed fewer benefits from watching TV. Instead of feeling revitalized after watching TV, they felt guilty.

The researchers believe that the shame associated with TV watching can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, making it hard for viewers to reap psychological benefits.

For this reason, we need to shake the notion that bingeing on stories we engage with on TV is somehow less worthy leisure pursuit than bingeing on stories that we consume other ways, like novels. Immersing ourselves in narratives on TV can be good for us, even in heavy doses, but only if we truly appreciate it for what it is: a pleasure. Not a guilty pleasure, simply a pleasure.

It’s National Pet Day! Here Are Some Studies That Prove Pets Are Good For Your Health

If you have pets you already know the joy and love they bring to your life. Now science is confirming just how good they really are for you — both mentally and physically.

How do they help? One theory is that pets boost our oxytocin levels. Also known as the “bonding hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin enhances social skills, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, boosts immune function and raises tolerance for pain. It also lowers stress, anger and depression.

No surprise then that keeping regular company with a dog or cat (or another beloved beast) appears to offer all these same benefits and more. Read on to discover the many impressive ways a pet can make you healthier, happier and more resilient.

1. Pets alleviate allergies and boost immune function

One of your immune system’s jobs is to identify potentially harmful substances and unleash antibodies to ward off the threat. But sometimes it overreacts and misidentifies harmless stuff as dangerous, causing an allergic reaction. Think red eyes, itchy skin, runny nose and wheezing. You’d think that having pets might trigger allergies by kicking up sneeze-and-wheeze-inducing dander and fur. But it turns out that living with a dog or cat during the first year of life not only cuts your chances of having pet allergies in childhood and later on but also revs up your immune system and lowers your risk of eczema and asthma. In fact, just a brief pet encounter can invigorate your disease-defense system. In one study, petting a dog for only 18 minutes raised immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in college students’ saliva, a sign of robust immune function.

2. Pets up your fitness quotient

This one applies more to dog owners. If you like walking with your favorite canine, chances are you’re fitter and trimmer than your non-dog-walking counterparts and come closer to meeting recommended physical activity levels. One study of more than 2,000 adults found that regular dog walkers got more exercise and were less likely to be obese than those who didn’t walk a dog. In another study, older dog walkers (ages 71-82) walked faster and longer than non-pooch-walkers, plus they were more mobile at home.

3. Pets dial down stress

When stress comes your way, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing hormones like cortisol to crank out more energy-boosting blood sugar and epinephrine to get your heart and blood pumping. All well and good for our ancestors who needed quick bursts of speed to dodge predatory saber-toothed tigers and stampeding mastodons. But when we live in a constant state of fight-or-flight from ongoing stress at work and the frenetic pace of modern life, these physical changes take their toll on our bodies, including raising our risk of heart disease and other dangerous conditions. Contact with pets seem to counteract this stress response by lowering stress hormones and heart rate. They also lower anxiety and fear levels (psychological responses to stress) and elevate feelings of calmness.

4. Pets boost heart health

Pets shower us with love so it’s not surprising they have a big impact on our love organ: the heart. Turns out time spent with a cherished critter is linked to better cardiovascular health, possibly due to the stress-busting effect mentioned above. Studies show that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dogs also benefit patients who already have cardiovascular disease. They’re not only four time more likely to be alive after a year if they own a dog, but they’re also more likely to survive a heart attack. And don’t worry, cat owners — feline affection confers a similar effect. One 10-year study found that current and former cat owners were 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack and 30 percent less likely to die of other cardiovascular diseases.

5. Make you a social — and date — magnet

Four-legged companions (particularly the canine variety that pull us out of the house for daily walks) help us make more friends and appear more approachable, trustworthy and date-worthy. In one study, people in wheelchairs who had a dog received more smiles and had more conversations with passersby than those without a dog. In another study, college students who were asked to watch videos of two psychotherapists (depicted once with a dog and once without) said they felt more positively toward them when they had a dog and more likely to disclose personal information. And good news for guys: research shows that women are more willing to give out their number to men with a canine buddy.

6. Provides a social salve for Alzheimer’s patients

Just as non-human pals strengthen our social skills and connection, cats and dogs also offer furry, friendly comfort and social bonding to people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of brain-destroying dementia. Several canine caregiver programs now exist to assist at-home dementia patients with day-to-day tasks, such as fetching medication, reminding them to eat and guiding them home if they’ve wandered off course. Many assisted-living facilities also keep resident pets or offer therapy animal visits to support and stimulate patients. Studies show creature companions can reduce behavioral issues among dementia patients by boosting their moods and raising their nutritional intake.

7. Enhances social skills in kids with autism

One in nearly 70 American kids has autism (also known as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD), a developmental disability that makes it tough to communicate and interact socially. Not surprisingly, animals can also help these kids connect better to others. One study found that youngsters with ASD talked and laughed more, whined and cried less and were more social with peers when guinea pigs were present. A multitude of ASD animal-assisted therapy programs have sprung up in recent years, featuring everything from dogs and dolphins to alpacas, horses and even chickens.

8. Dampens depression and boosts mood

Pets keep loneliness and isolation at bay and make us smile. In other words, their creature camaraderie and ability to keep us engaged in daily life (via endearing demands for food, attention and walks) are good recipes for warding off the blues. Research is ongoing, but animal-assisted therapy is proving particularly potent in deterring depression and other mood disorders. Studies show that everyone from older men in a veterans hospital who were exposed to an aviary filled with songbirds to depressed college students who spent time with dogs reported feeling more positive.

9. Defeats PTSD

People haunted by trauma like combat, assault and natural disasters are particularly vulnerable to a mental health condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sure enough, studies show that the unconditional love — and oxytocin boost — of a pet can help remedy the flashbacks, emotional numbness and angry outbursts linked to PTSD. Even better, there are now several programs that pair specially trained service dogs and cats with veterans suffering from PTSD.

10. Fights cancer

Animal-assisted therapy helps cancer patients heal emotionally and physically. Preliminary findings of a clinical trial by the American Humane Association shows that therapy dogs not only erase loneliness, depression and stress in kids fighting cancer, but canines can also motivate them to eat and follow treatment recommendations better — in other words participate more actively in their own healing. Likewise, new research reveals a similar lift in emotional well-being for adults undergoing the physical rigors of cancer treatment. Even more astounding, dogs (with their stellar smelling skills) are now being trained to literally sniff out cancer.

How Bad Will Allergy Season Be This Year?

Suffer from seasonal allergies? Depending on where you live, you may already be sneezing, sniffling and rubbing your itchy eyes.

And you may be in for a whopper of a spring.

The first pollen culprit each year is typically trees. If rainfall was good the year before, resulting in solid tree growth, that typically means healthy trees. Combine that with relatively warm forecasts with no more freezing temperatures on the horizon and it’s a perfect storm of pollen-filled trees.

Right now in late February, that means the spring pollen allergy season has already kicked in for most of the Midwest and Southeast, says Charles Barnes, Ph.D., director of the allergy and immunology laboratory at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and a fellow with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

“We’ve noticed this year there are pollen counts coming in even earlier than last year,” says Barnes. “It seems that the Midwest and Southeast are early and high, but the Northeast and far West are about normal.”

He says counts appear to be earlier and higher this year at pollen count stations in the middle of the U.S. including Oklahoma City; Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Lexington, Kentucky; and Dayton, Ohio. Stations in the Southeast also are reporting earlier counts this year. There’s even at least one station in southern California and one in Southern Colorado reporting earlier and higher counts than normal. Stations in the Northeast, however, appear to be later or about the same as usual.

The pollen count station in Springfield, New Jersey just started collecting data, says Barnes, and levels are low.

Although pollen-counting stations in Minnesota and Wisconsin haven’t started collecting any data yet, there already have been counts in Omaha, Nebraska, and Chicago.

“Normally you think of Nebraska in April and you think snow cover, but they don’t have snow, they have trees pollinating,” Barnes says. “And Chicago has high juniper, oak and maple levels already and that’s pretty far north.”

To check the pollen counts so far in your area, check out the National Allergy Bureau reports.

Pollen getting earlier and earlier

The spring allergy season has been starting earlier for years now, Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, told Weather.com

“In general over the last 10 years or more, we’ve seen an earlier start to the spring allergy season by about two weeks,” Bassett said. “Each year is different. You’re mostly seeing a longer season spring through fall because of warmer temperatures.”

Bassett also suggested that climate change plays a part.

“[Climate change] is causing more carbon dioxide in our environment, which in turn tells a lot of plants to produce more pollen, and the pollen itself is more supercharged and more powerful.”

Of course tree pollen isn’t the only thing allergy sufferers have to worry about. Just when you’re starting to get relief from the trees, that’s typically when the grasses start releasing their pollen.

“Grass season typically starts in May and can run through June (at least in St. Louis). Predicting that far in advance is difficult,” say Barnes.

Better stock up on the tissues and antihistamines.

Cold Weather Is Actually Really Good For You

With the onset of winter, the complaints about cold weather invariably begin. But if you’re a moderately active, healthy person, cold weather doesn’t have to be a negative. (Take it from someone who has spent time living away from the four seasons; you might very well find yourself missing the crackling clarity of a cold winter’s day after your 340th balmy day.) There’s plenty to love about cold weather, including the wonderful feeling of frigid air against your cheeks when your core is toasty warm.

But whether you agree with my appreciation of winter weather or not, there’s plenty of evidence that cooler temperatures can be part of a healthy life.

For sleep

Cooler temps can help you lose weight (the body burns more energy to keep your core temp at a cozy 98.6 degrees), can help you sleep better and may even improve your metabolism while you sleep. You might feel a little uncomfortable at first if you cool your bedroom down, but if you, for example, switch your bedroom temperature from 72 down to 62 degrees gradually over a few weeks, your body will adjust — and you’ll save money on energy costs.

For studying or working

Our brains work better in cooler temperatures, too.

I have long kept my winter house temperature at 62 degrees (60 when I sleep), and because I work at home, that’s my work temperature, too. How did I find that number? Well, I experimented on myself about eight years ago when I bought a house — the truth is I hate spending money on heating bills. I started at 66 and turned it down one degree every few days until I got to 60. I found that when the temperature is any colder than 62, I’m distracted by chilliness and need endless cups of tea to keep me warm. But 62 was perfect. It took a little getting used to, but it worked. The side bonus for me was that it also kept me alert while working.

Interestingly, science says 62 degrees is also the magic number for brainwork. I recently learned about a 1972 study that said 62 degrees was the temperature at which the schoolboy subjects of the study functioned optimally. And while we’re speaking of work and school, other research shows that people study better when the weather outside is “bad.” (I enjoy a snowstorm or a good rainy day myself, but I’ll let the typical terminology stand.)

For skin

Most of us think that cold weather leads to dry skin and wrinkling, but a Harvard Health Letter from 2010 includes the following interesting info: “… moderately cold temperatures could be good for the vasculature because it trains blood vessels in the skin to be responsive.” So, rosy cheeks! And if you have dry skin, I recommend coconut oil cleansing — yup, that’s washing your face or body with coconut oil — if you have drier skin during the winter.

There’s no reason to be afraid of winter weather. Embrace it (and layer up) and you, too, can enjoy the season.

Do the Practices in the $30 Billion Alternative Medicine Industry Actually Work?

Alternative medicine is big business in the U.S. A new report found that Americans spent more than $30 billion on alternative therapies in 2012. That includes treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture as well as supplements, yoga and meditation.

The report, released jointly by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 59 million Americans sought out some type of alternative therapy. Most of the alternative therapies are being used by adults, not children, the researchers found. Of the $30.2 billion, about $28 billion was spent on adults, compared to $1.9 billion for children.

Researchers estimated that one out of five Americans spent money on at least one type of alternative therapy, which could include practices such as Ayurveda, biofeedback, chelation therapy, chiropractic manipulation, energy healing therapy, tai chi, hypnosis, naturopathy, progressive relaxation and massage therapy.

Overall, spending on alternative remedies amounted to just around 9 percent of out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures. But the report found that Americans with lower incomes were shelling out more of their income proportionally than their more affluent peers. Families making less than $25,000 per year spent around $314 per person on complementary medicine and $389 per person on natural supplements. Families earning more than $100,000 per year spent an average of $518 per person on alternative treatments and $377 each on supplements.

While there have been studies confirming the therapeutic benefits of some treatments — such as acupuncture and yoga — other forms of complementary medicine, namely homeopathy, guided imagery, energy healing and some natural supplements have faced severe scrutiny for the lack of scientific data to support their use.

Yet despite this lack of data, the alternative medicine industry is continuing to grow in the U.S. And according to researchers, this confirms the need for more research into to ensure that the products and treatment options offered are safe.

Just In Time For This Weekend, EWG Releases The 2016 Guide to Sunscreens

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released its latest guide to sunscreens. The guide investigates more than 750 beach and sport sunscreens for how well they protect your skin and the overall safety of their ingredients.

This year’s report takes a closer look at sunscreens specifically made for babies and kids. According to the EWG, melanoma is on the rise in our country. It takes only a few blistering sunburns in childhood to double the chance a person will get skin cancer over a lifetime. Melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is characterized by mole-like cancerous growths.

I’m one of those people who had many blistering sunburns during childhood, often brought about on purpose because the burn eventually turned to tan. A good tan was a status symbol in my early teens. I’ve shared my skin cancer story before and urged everyone to have suspicious moles checked. The basel cell carcinoma on my chest that showed up about 30 years after my self-inflicted sunburns was most likely caused by a mix of genetics and sun exposure.

Because I know more about the sun’s damaging effects than my parents did and because of my experience with skin cancer, I’m vigilant about sunscreen when it comes to my sons.

I certainly wish I could go back and change they sunscreen use of my youth. The skin cancer that I mentioned above returned just a few months ago. What was a small, almost unnoticeable scar on my chest is now a two-inch long, very noticeable scar from the latest procedure to remove the cancer. I joke that I got into a dual with a pirate — and it certainly looks like a stab wound. Mostly, I’m grateful that there’s a good chance this latest procedure took care of the basel cell carcinoma for good. But, sometimes I’m very self-conscious about this scar, which might have been avoidable had I known then what I know now.

I’ve used the EWG’s sunscreen guide for several years now because I know all sunscreens are not created equal.

Three-fourths of the sunscreens the EWG tested were found to be lacking, either in effectiveness or because of the ingredients. Problematic ingredients like oxybenzone, a hormone disrupter, and retinal palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may harm skin, can be found in some sunscreens.

High SPF (sunburn protection factor) values can also give people a false sense of security. A high SPF is associated with greater protection from immediate burn and from future skin cancer risk, but this year’s report says “higher SPF ratings don’t necessarily offer great protection from other UV-related skin damage and may lead users to spend too much time in the sun.”

Dermatologists and skin cancer researchers now believe that sunscreens should not only protect from UVB rays — the ultraviolet short-wave rays that cause skin cancer — but they should also protect from UVA rays. Sunscreen manufacturers have stepped up in that area, and nearly every product tested contained an ingredient thought to filter UVA rays.

So, which are the best products, the ones that protect from both UVB and UVA rays while containing the least harmful ingredients? You’ll need to head to EWG’s easy-to-use interactive 10th Annual Guide to Sunscreens for that info, but I can tell you a bit more about what to expect.

Sunscreens are broken down into four categories.

  • Best beach and sport sunscreens
  • Best-scoring kids’ sunscreens
  • Best moisturizers with SPF
  • Worst-scoring kids sunscreens

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer for many of us. Before you stock up on sunscreen for the summer, take the time to look over the EWG guide and find safe and effective sun protection for you and your family. Your future self will thank you.

What’s Up With The New Nutrition Labels?

The Food and Drug Administration has revealed the final changes to the nutrition label, and while the iconic look of the label remains, some of the information is changing. The new labels from the FDA are schedule to appear on packages by July 2018, but manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an extra year to make the changes.

As you can see from the side-by-side comparison above, the most noticeable changes are that the serving size and calorie count information are larger and in bold. The way serving sizes are determined is changing, too. Serving sizes must now be “based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating.” So under these guidelines, a serving of soda just got bigger: from 8 ounces to 12 ounces.

Along the same lines, a 20-ounce soda will be considered one serving because most people treat a regular-sized soft drink as one serving. The FDA is calling this a reality check.

Another important change will be in the way sugar is labeled. Before, sugar was lumped all together, whether it was naturally occurring or from added sweeteners. The amount of total sugars is still on the label, but the added sugars are shown on a separate line because “scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.”

Here are some other changes:

  • Vitamins A and C will no longer be required on the label. Apparently, Americans are getting plenty of them. Vitamin D and potassium are being added to the label because Americans don’t get enough of them.
  • “Calories from Fat” is being removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D are being updated based on newer scientific evidence.
  • The footnote has been rewritten to better explain what percent Daily Value means.

This last graphic highlights all the changes to the new label, which hasn’t had a redesign in more than 20 years.

Now that the nutrition label has been updated to reflect more recent science, we need to get to work on the front-of-packaging marketing claims. Last fall, The Food Label Modernization Act was introduced in Congress. If passed, the rule would define what manufacturers could put on the front of a package and would also require certain information, like calorie counts and serving sizes.

New Study Finds That Short, Intense Workouts Are More Beneficial Than Traditional Sets

What’s better, running for 60 minutes at an easy-going pace or running for 30 minutes broken up into alternating chunks of sprints and jogging?

Of course, it all depends upon what your goal is. But if you want to burn fat, work your muscles harder and increase your cardiorespiratory fitness, two recent studies show interval training may be the way to go.

Unlike endurance workouts, which are comprised of moderate exercise conducted over a longer period of time, interval training, or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as it’s sometimes called, is short and sweet, with high-intensity exercise mixed in with lower-intensity cool down periods.

An April 2016 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitnessstudied 39 adults for eight weeks. The volunteers were split into two groups. One group did HIIT twice a week and regular gym workouts twice a week. The other group did only regular gym workouts four times a week. While participants in both groups reduced their body fat and improved their flexibility, researchers found only the group that did HIIT improved their cardiorespiratory fitness.

A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute also looked at the health benefits of HIIT. They evaluated a group of male volunteers who alternated between pedaling a stationary bike for 30 seconds at top intensity and resting for three minutes. They completed this workout six times.

Researchers say what they found in the muscle cells of the participants reveals why HIIT workouts are so effective.

Tissues samples from the thigh muscles of the volunteers showed even after just one exercise session, the muscle cells had broken down in a way that promoted energy production to improve efficiency. Essentially, they found their muscles were reacting to the stress of the interval workout by becoming faster and stronger than before.

“During any physical training, the cell senses, ‘I have a problem here,’” Hakan Westerblad, a professor of physiology and pharmacology from the Karolinska Institute told Time magazine. “So to be better safe than sorry, they adapt so the next time they experience the intense exercise, the problem is lessened.”

And Westerblad and his colleagues found these adaptations were greater and more effective after interval training than after longer workouts. Even after just one workout, the volunteers had changes in their muscle cells that could be detected 24 hours later.

So if you’re crunched for time, don’t skip the workout, just dial up the intensity. You’ll still get in some quality exercise and a major boost to your heart and muscle health.

Surgeons Just Performed the First Uterus Transplant in the U.S.

During a 9-hour surgery performed by Cleveland Clinic transplant and gynecological surgeons on Feb. 24, a 26-year-old woman received the first uterus transplant in the United States. The womb came from a deceased organ donor. This procedure marks an important milestone for fertility medicine and could help women born without a uterus or those who had to have it removed to regain the ability to become pregnant.

The clinic released a statement saying that the woman was in stable condition on Thursday afternoon. Her next step is to wait at least a year before attempting to become pregnant to make sure that everything heals properly and that her body doesn’t try to reject the new organ.

Before the procedure, some of the woman’s eggs were removed surgically and fertilized with her husband’s sperm. If all goes well during the year, these already-fertilized eggs will be transferred back to her new womb for what will hopefully be a successful pregnancy. She will be monitored closely by a team of high-risk obstetrics medical professionals.

One thing that is special about this situation is that the transplant will be a temporary procedure on purpose. The real goal is to have children, not a uterus, so it will be removed after one or two babies are born (it’s up to the couple) so that there’s no need to take anti-rejection drugs — which can have harmful side-effects — and so that other potential long-term complications of the transplant are avoided.

The research team, which is comprised of transplant specialists, obstetricians, gynecologists, bioethicists, psychiatrists, nurses and social workers, is continuing to screen for transplant candidates that are inflicted with uterine factor infertility (UFI), an irreversible condition affecting 3-5 percent of women worldwide.

“Women who are coping with UFI have few existing options,” said Dr. Tommaso Falcone, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic. “Although adoption and surrogacy provide opportunities for parenthood, both pose logistical challenges and may not be acceptable due to personal, cultural or legal reasons.”

The hospital’s ethics panel has given permission for uterus transplants to be performed 10 times as an experiment. After that, the panel will decide if the procedure can become a more routine one or if it’s still too experimental.

According to the New York Times, there are around 50,000 women in the United States that could be candidates for uterus transplants.

There have been other uterus transplants performed elsewhere around the world. The major milestones include a 2000 transplant in Saudi Arabia from a living hysterectomy patient to a 26-year-old recipient. The transplanted uterus functioned for 99 days, but had to be removed due to too much blood clotting. In Turkey in 2011, the world’s first uterus transplant from a deceased donor took place. The recipient was a 21-year-old woman born without a uterus. Unfortunately, she was not able to have a baby.

The biggest success in the field so far comes from Sweden. In 2012, the first mother-to-daughter transplant was performed, leading to the birth in 2014 of a baby boy. He was born prematurely by cesarean section, but he lived, and his life wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of a pioneering medical team.

Is Everything Pumpkin Good For You?

This time of year, it seems like pumpkin-flavored options are available for pretty much everything. But is all this pumpkin healthy?

Pumpkin is packed with multiple nutrients, but pumpkin-flavored products may lack these nutritional benefits, one researcher says.

The nutritional benefits of eating real pumpkin do not necessary translate to eating pumpkin-flavored food products, according to Suzy Weems, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition sciences at Baylor University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

When you eat something with “pumpkin seasoning, or pumpkin flavoring, or pumpkin whatever, you are not getting the full benefit of the vegetable,” Weems told LiveScience.

For example, real pumpkin contains a lot of fiber, which helps you feel full for a long time. And the fruit (pumpkin is not a vegetable; it contains seeds) also contains a nutrient called zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that is essential for eye health, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Clinics in Dermatology.

Pumpkin is also low in cholesterol and high in vitamin A, a nutrient that is important for people’s eyesight and healthy skin. In addition, it is a good source of trace elements such as magnesium, manganese and copper, Weems said in a statement.

The nutritional benefits of eating real pumpkin do not necessary translate to eating pumpkin-flavored food products, according to Suzy Weems, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition sciences at Baylor University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

When you eat something with “pumpkin seasoning, or pumpkin flavoring, or pumpkin whatever, you are not getting the full benefit of the vegetable,” Weems told LiveScience.

For example, real pumpkin contains a lot of fiber, which helps you feel full for a long time. And the fruit (pumpkin is not a vegetable; it contains seeds) also contains a nutrient called zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that is essential for eye health, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Clinics in Dermatology.

Pumpkin is also low in cholesterol and high in vitamin A, a nutrient that is important for people’s eyesight and healthy skin. In addition, it is a good source of trace elements such as magnesium, manganese and copper, Weems said in a statement. [Science You Can Eat: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Food]

Having sufficient levels of magnesium is important for a nerve function, heartbeat, muscle contraction and bone health. Manganese plays a role in metabolism and bone development, according to Oregon State University. And copper is essential for nerve function and bone growth, according to the Mayo Clinic.

But when it comes to pumpkin desserts, people should pay attention to whether there is any actual pumpkin in the dessert, or whether it only contains pumpkin flavoring, Weems said.

There is, however, good news for pumpkin pie fans: “That is generally made with the meat of the pumpkin,” Weems said. “It is different from just getting a pumpkin-flavored latte.”

Moreover, people should be aware that adding pumpkin or pumpkin flavoring to a product that is already high in calories is not going to make these calories disappear. “Pumpkin-laced candy is still candy,” Weems said.

Similarly, “a pumpkin latte is not going to mean any fewer calories if it’s made with a full-fat milk or syrup,” she said. “And pumpkin doughnuts still have sugar.”

People should still be mindful of the overall calorie content of any pumpkin product, she said. Similarly, “If you have diabetes, you look at the sugar and total carbohydrates; if you have cardiovascular disease, look at the fat,” Weems said. For example, the fat that is present in pumpkin seeds “doesn’t disappear when you roast and eat them,” she said.

Weems also suggested ways to best use the fresh pumpkin that’s available this season. Carve out the pumpkin, and then “chop it up into cubes and then roast it, she said. “Or it can be baked or mashed.”