Surprise! A Beer Makes You Happier, Friendlier

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News)—Raise a glass of your favorite brew and toast the Swiss researchers who offer scientific proof for what you surely suspected and probably hoped.

Drinking beer does make you friendlier, happier, less inhibited—maybe even sexier, they report.

But that’s not all.

“We found that drinking a glass of beer helps people see happy faces faster, and enhances concern for positive emotional situations,” said lead researcher Matthias Liechti, head of psychopharmacology research at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland.

In other words, drinking beer might make you more social and more empathetic.

Researchers came to these not-so-sobering conclusions after studying 30 men and 30 women. Half were randomly assigned to drink enough beer to raise their blood alcohol level to about 0.4 grams per liter. (The amount was proportional to their body size.) The others quaffed a nonalcoholic brew.

Before and after, both groups performed various tasks, including facial recognition as well as tests of their empathy and sexual arousal. Both groups then switched roles and repeated the tests.

The upshot: The researchers found that people were more eager to socialize after a drink or two. This was especially true for women and for volunteers who had been more inhibited socially.

Drinking also made it easier for some people, particularly women, to look at sexually explicit images. But it didn’t make them any more turned on, the study found.

The findings were published Sept. 19 in the journal Psychopharmacology. They were also to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) on Monday in Vienna, Austria.

“This is an interesting study confirming conventional wisdom that alcohol is a social lubricant and that moderate use of alcohol makes people happier, more social and less inhibited when it comes to sexual engagement,” said Dr. Wim van den Brink, former head of the ECNP Scientific Program Committee.

Though he was not involved in the study, van den Brink offered several theories for differences between men and women. They could stem from differences in blood alcohol levels after the same amount of beer; differences in tolerance due to previous alcohol use; or socio-cultural factors, he said.

“It should also be recognized that different effects of alcohol can be seen according to whether your blood alcohol is increasing or decreasing, and of course how much alcohol you have taken,” he said in an ECNP news release.

But before you start chugging away, van den Brink pointed out that people’s emotions may not reflect their actual behavior while under alcohol’s influence. As Shakespeare noted in Macbeth, “it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides more information on alcohol’s effects on the body.

I Got Tuberculosis and Spent 20 Days in Isolation

When I tell people I have tuberculosis, most of them have the same reaction: “Like, consumption? Is that still a thing?” It only takes a few seconds for a look of fear to set in. I can’t blame them. If someone told me they’d been afflicted by an antiquated airborne disease, I’d probably be scared as hell too.

When I was diagnosed with TB disease a month ago, I learned that as a potential public health threat, I was required to undergo treatment or face arrest. Yes, that's a real law, and thankfully so. The germ is spread in tiny droplets that enter the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. And it kills about 1.5 million people a year worldwide. My doctors informed me that I would be hospitalized in isolation for a minimum of two weeks, and/or until daily smears became consistently negative for the TB bacteria. Thus began my 20 days of solitude, intensive antibiotics, and bureaucratic red tape.

It all started when I went to see my doctor about a persistent cough. He ordered a chest X-ray, and said he'd get in touch with the results. Twenty minutes after I left the office, he called and told me to go to the ER immediately. The X-ray had revealed an "impressive" lesion in one of my lungs.

At the hospital, I was admitted right away and whisked into a negative pressure room with a handful of doctors and nurses in protective gowns, gloves, and masks. It was like a modest version of one of those Hollywood outbreak movies. The doctors and nurses did their best to crack jokes and make me feel settled, but I could sense their nervousness. I was told I wouldn't be leaving until they could run some tests and rule out tuberculosis.

In the meantime my girlfriend came to keep me company. We watched Netflix in my hospital bed, wearing our masks and hoping for the best. It wasn't the most romantic setting for a movie date. The next afternoon the doctors confirmed the diagnosis they suspected. For the forseeable future I was stuck there, while I waited for my daily test results to change. 

RELATED: 5 Old-Time Diseases That Are Making a Comeback

Even with the perks of living in 2016—like smartphones and online TV—when you're cooped up in a room, for weeks on end, you start to lose your mind a bit. You can’t help but feel like patient zero in some zombie flick.

Luckily, I didn't feel too sick. A slight cough and fatigue had been my only real symptoms. Many people who get TB endure a vicious cough, chest pain, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

All big decisions about my treatment had to be approved by officials in the health department, and trying to communicate with them felt like sending a carrier pigeon to Middle Earth. It would take days to get answers to the simplest questions. Two weeks into my isolation period, they informed me that I'd be staying an extra week because the hospital had given me the wrong dose of antibiotics when I first arrived. A bonus round.

Fortunately the strain of TB I’d caught was easily treatable, and the antibiotics were immediately effective. Many people aren’t so fortunate.

I had a good idea where I’d caught the infection. A friend of mine had been treated for TB one year prior. (She suspects she picked up the infection while traveling abroad.) Shortly after her diagnosis I had tested negative on a PPD skin test, but the clinic failed to inform me that I should return for a follow-up test in eight weeks. Go healthcare system! My infection was asymptomatic until the cough appeared last summer. It turns out TB bacteria can remain dormant for years in what's known as latent TB. Lesson learned: Trust no one, and research the hell out of everything.

RELATED: I Have a Disease That Makes My Thyroid Go Haywire

I was discharged from the hospital after three weeks. By day 30, I was back on my feet and generally healthy, able to work again and kiss my girlfriend without fear of further exposing her.

She and the other people I spent considerable time with while I was contagious have tested negative for TB. If they do test positive for latent TB upon their follow-up visit, they can take antibiotics and skip the whole "outbreak movie" scenario that I went through.

The health department will continue to supervise my treatment for the next six months. Initially I was required to go to the health department office every day, to take my medication under direct observation. But I’m now able to swallow the pills during a video chat with a health department employee. An exclusive TB chat room.

All complaints aside, TB is a potentially fatal disease and I got a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you think you may have been exposed to the disease, it's worth taking the time to get tested. Twice.

Here's What 7 Health Editors Do Before 7 A.M.

Let's face it: Mornings can be nutty. But picking up a healthy a.m. habit could make all the difference, and help you start your day off right. Many editors here at Health have their own go-to strategy to pave the way for a productive day. From a pre-work sweat sesh to a nutrient-packed breakfast, here are some easy tips that could make your mornings a little bit brighter.

Find your zen

"I practice Vedic meditation twice a day for 20 minutes at a time, the first one right upon waking. Vedic is really accessible, it's for everyone. You repeat a mantra to yourself (silently), and as thoughts drift into your mind, you gently bring yourself back to the mantra. Very simple! I used to feel really foggy in the morning, but meditation puts me in a calm, focused state of mind first thing, and makes me feel really energized." —Beth Lipton, food director

Get sweaty

"Well it may seem pretty simple, but I go work out! It instantly wakes me up and prepares me for a productive day. When I don't exercise I feel very tired and my concentration is off." Rozalynn Frazier, senior fitness editor

RELATED: How to Become the Type of Person Who Works Out in the Morning

Stretch it out

"Even if I don’t have time to get a workout in, I take about 10 minutes to stretch. Nothing too complicated. I just stretch my calves one at a time, by pushing the ball of my foot against a wall with my heel on the ground. Then I stretch my quads by pulling my heel up behind me with a bent knee. I sometimes experience lower back pain, so to help alleviate that, I do some simple neck rolls and touch my toes to stretch my hamstrings. I also usually go through a round of child's pose, laughing baby pose, and downward dog." —Chelsey Hamilton, editorial assistant

Check in with family

"Every weekday morning I walk my daughter the one mile to her school. Rain or shine, cold or hot, that brisk walk (some days brisker than others, depending on whether we overslept!) helps to clear my brain and get my blood moving first thing. I know that I've gotten in a little activity, even if I don't make it to the gym that day. And it's also my time to check in with my daughter, which is good for both of our mental health." Jeannie Kim, executive deputy editor

Fuel up

"I will not leave the house in the morning without having breakfast. If I don't eat something, then I'm miserable by the time I get to work. I also tend to eat extra junk throughout the day when I haven't had a morning meal. My go-to breakfasts are two eggs and a slice of whole-grain toast; a quarter of an avocado smashed onto a slice of whole-grain toast and topped with an over-easy egg; or a smoothie consisting of kale or spinach, blueberries, Greek yogurt, banana, water, and chia seeds." Christine Mattheis, deputy editor

RELATED: 8 Ways to Fake Being a Morning Person

Stick with what works

"There are two specific things I do. First, I eat the same breakfast every day: 1/2 cup of oatmeal, topped with a handful of walnuts and a handful of frozen wild blueberries, add 3/4 cup milk, and microwave the whole thing for 3 minutes. I eat that with a tall glass of seltzer water and orange juice, mixed 50/50. Then, if I have time, I also try to take a quick nap right after I wake up before I get going!" Michael Gollust, research editor

Caffeinate

"I walk one mile to my favorite coffee place and grab a skim cappuccino!"

—Clare McHugh, editor-in-chief

The 10 Healthiest Places to Live in America

If you're looking for a fresh start somewhere you can finally focus on your health, consider a move to Highlands Ranch, Colorado. The bedroom community outside Denver is the healthiest town in America, according to MONEY. 

As part of its annual "Best Places to Live" report (which this year focused on small cities), MONEY ranked the healthiest locales in the U.S. based on a range of factors, including access to medical care, rates of common diseases, and the residents' own assessments of their personal health. 

For anyone who wants to prioritize fitness, eating right, and aging well, it certainly can't hurt to live in a place where healthy values are woven into the local culture. Check out the list below to see some of the communities that do this best. (For the full list of MONEY’s "Best Places to Live in 2016," click here.)

RELATED: The Best Places to Live If You Love Outdoor Sports

10. St. Augustine, FL

The Sunshine State appears to do the heart good: People who live in this coastal town—as well as other communities throughout Florida—die less frequently from heart disease compared to folks in other cities and states.

9. San Rafael, CA

California should win a medal for its low rates of adult obesity. For now this Marin County town ranks as the 9th healthiest place to live on MONEY’s list.

8. Provo, UT

The state of Utah possesses the lowest rate of childhood obesity nationally. It's a good bet families in Provo love to play outdoors.

7. Cheyenne, WY

Diabetes is relatively rare among people who live in the High Plains of Wyoming, including the residents of the state's most populous town. 

6. Nashua, NH

People in Nashua feel healthy, which counts for a lot. MONEY reports that the percentage of Nashua residents who consider themselves in "good or excellent" health is the highest of any city studied by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5. Quincy, MA

Massachusetts has the fewest diabetes-related deaths nationwide, which helped land this Boston suburb in fifth place on MONEY's list.

RELATED: The 50 Most Gorgeous Running Races in America, State-by-State

4. Woodbury, MN

When it comes to heat health, Minnesotans are way above average. They have the lowest rate of cardiovascular disease in the U.S., which is one reason this St. Paul suburb is such a healthy place to live.

3. Greenwich, CT

Greenwich is a good place to have an emergency: It ranks third on this list thanks, in part, to the high number of hospitals within a 15-mile radius.

2. Koolaupoko, HI

In Koolaupoko and other Hawaii towns, cancer deaths are among the lowest in the nation.

1. Highlands Ranch, CO

With the lowest adult obesity rate in the country, Highlands Ranch—a planned community about 15 miles south of downtown Denver—nabbed first place as the country's healthiest place to live.