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Should social media come with warning labels? Plus a WHO warning on fake Ozempic and other health stories you may have missed this week

Hello, health and wellness readers. My name is Kaitlin, your guide to the news you may have missed and how it could affect your life.

Here’s what our team looked into this week:

  • You may love brownies and pizza, but your brain has other favorites, reports Maxine Yeung. Here’s a list of the best food for brain health.

  • Scary but true: drowning doesn’t always look like drowning. Priscilla Blossom shares expert water tips to ensure that you’re having the safest summer at the beach or pool.

  • June Squibb is a movie star at 94. She shared some tips on aging well with Kerry Justich.

  • What do we know about loneliness? Erin Donnelly spoke with expert Sam Carr to debunk some myths — like the belief that loneliness is a “disease to be cured.”

📱 Should social media come with warning labels?

In an op-ed for the New York Times, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy called for a warning label to be placed on social media sites. “The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency — and social media has emerged as an important contributor,” Murthy wrote. He pointed to research that shows children who use social media for more than three hours a day are more likely to show signs of mental health issues. He wants Congress to place warning labels similar to those for cigarettes on social media to hold companies accountable.

What it means for you: This is just one more example of how people in government are bringing attention to the potential mental health ramifications of social media use among kids. This includes the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, which aims to implement stricter measures to prevent minors from accessing harmful content.

While there is research pointing to the dangers of social media in youth, other commentators argue that it may not be the villain in the story. Some suggest that the connection between mental health issues and social media may have more to do with youth who are already dealing with these struggles seeking out community. Plus, with so many different factors contributing to the decline in youth mental health (like fears related to the pandemic, mass shootings and climate change) some argue that it’s difficult to assess the specific negative impact of social media. Some believe that maligning social media also ignores its positive elements, such as helping young members of the LGBTQ+ community connect when they can’t in person.

🥵 Extreme heat and humidity cause major health concerns

Extreme heat is taking over the United States, with 100 million people under a heat advisory due to what the National Weather Service called a “dangerous and long” heat wave. On Friday, Phoenix was the hottest place in the United States, hitting 117 degrees. In addition to the high temperatures, there’s also an extreme amount of humidity in many of the affected areas.

What it means for you: Extreme heat is a major problem. Last year set the record for the deadliest year for heat-related deaths in the U.S., with more than 2,300 such deaths recorded. Yet it’s also the humidity that’s an issue, because “wet-bulb” temperatures above 95°F will prevent the human body from cooling down by sweating. Online calculators, which combine the relative humidity and air temperature, can help you estimate if you’re in the danger zone.

During times of extreme heat and humidity, it’s important to follow guidelines in order to keep yourself cool.

  • Drink plenty of water to keep your body cool and hydrated. Replenish with electrolytes as needed.

  • Avoid direct sunlight by staying indoors, and seek shade when outside.

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes to help keep your body cool.

  • Spend time in air-conditioned places (try a free place like a library!) or use fans to help lower your body’s temperature.

⚠️ World Health Organization issues warning on fake Ozempic

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned the public about increased reports of fake versions of the diabetes medication Ozempic, which is the brand name for semaglutide. Counterfeit versions of the drug, which is known for its weight loss effect, were reportedly detected in Brazil and the United Kingdom in October 2023 and in the U.S. in December 2023. The WHO warned that these counterfeit drugs could harm individuals and may include undisclosed additional active ingredients like insulin, which could cause blood glucose issues.

What it means for you: As the popularity of semaglutide drugs rises, so does the potential for falsified versions of the drugs — especially as insurance companies choose not to cover these drugs or stick steep price tags on them.

This news also comes after Novo Nordisk sued medical spas for selling compounded semaglutide, which the pharmaceutical company said led to “consumer confusion and deception as well as potential safety concerns.” It’s important to note that these compounding pharmacies are not related to the fake versions of the drugs currently on the market but they also warrant some caution.

While compounded versions of semaglutide are not technically approved by the Food and Drug Administration, compounding pharmacies can legally produce versions of branded drugs on the FDA’s shortage list, like semaglutide, due to high demand. However, the FDA does not review these compounded drugs, putting them in a gray area.

As always, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you are hoping to get started on one of the medications — and to never purchase medication that requires a prescription, like Ozempic, from unlicensed retailers.

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