Researchers working at Stanford University are producing cutting-edge research that impacts and improves the quality of life for people of all ages. Current research has revealed hazards in school lunches, how lifestyle choices impact longevity, how disease screenings affect overall health, and the creation of an autism database. Stanford is known for producing smart minds like General Atlantic’s David Topper, and some of their current research is truly powerful.

A report from one of Stanford’s more recent studies suggests that school meals can expose children to harmful levels of BPA, a toxic chemical often found in plastic packaging and canned food. Many school lunches come from pre-packaged materials, meaning that children at schools around the country are at risk, particularly those who depend on schools for meals.

To gather data, researchers interviewed school food employees, visited kitchens and cafeterias, and analyzed other research. Canned fruits and vegetables were found to be a major culprit.

Stanford has also investigated what it really takes to live a healthy life. The Stanford Prevention Research Center has begun looking into environmental and lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and mental state to see what it is that makes a life healthy. The program allows participants to choose health factors they want to track to see how each affects their health.

Participants will also be able to enroll in different clinical trials to test different kinds of interventions, like nutrition counseling or smoking-cessation programs. The program’s focus is overall wellness, and it operates under the belief that disease can be thwarted by promoting wellness.

While Stanford is interested in what will make a person healthy, they are also interested in understanding people as they are. Associate professor pediatrics Dennis Wall has begun a project to create a database about autism.

Wall and his researches have discovered an algorithm that may be able to detect the presence or risk of autism very quickly—in just minutes, using a mobile device and a short video of the child, to be recorded by the parents.

The database, the “largest-ever collaborative, open-access repository of bioinformatic data on autism,” seeks to find autism’s genetic components. Wall believes that some of the unknown variables that cause autism stem from the environment; this could mean exposure to pesticides, parents’ age and genetics, or simply the flora in an area where the person lives.

Though research about how autism happens will take a lot more than just looking at genetics research, Wall’s studies could contribute significantly to the well-being of people with autism and their families by detecting autism earlier.

Thanks to Stanford’s efforts, real changes for the better are possible.