Rising COVID cases and a look at the social media trend 'rice-zempic': What this week's health stories mean for you

COVID cases are climbing. Here's what to know. (Getty Creative)
COVID cases are climbing. Here's what to know. (Getty Creative)

Hello, health and wellness readers. My name is Kaitlin, your guide to the latest health news you may have missed and what it means for you.

Here’s what our team explored this week:

  • Social media users are wearing chin straps while they sleep in an effort to snore less — and look more “snatched.” But is there any truth to these health claims? Kerry Justich spoke to experts to see if they recommend the practice.

  • Popping a multivitamin daily? Korin Miller looked into why doing so may not help you live longer after all — even if the pills do come with other benefits.

  • It’s a plant-based vs. real meat face-off: Which is actually better for your heart health? A new study has an answer, but experts say it’s not so simple.

  • Kayla Blanton has some bad news: Experts don’t want you to drink that G&T on a plane. But if you were going to anyway (wink, wink), here’s how to do it right.

  • Gun violence is a major health concern. Should doctors be talking to their patients about it? Here’s some perspective on the issue.

Here are three other stories from this week you need to know about.

🦠 COVID cases are climbing

COVID cases are on the rise this summer, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting an uptick in at least 44 states, as of June 25. Experts say highly transmissible subvariants like KP.3 and KP.2 (which are part of the FLiRT variants) as well as LB.1 (which may be even more infectious than the KP variants) are fueling the increase in cases.

What it means for you: This isn’t the first COVID summer wave we’ve seen. While outdoor gatherings (which are more common in the summer) may lead to less transmission, the increase in travel and general activities with others are part of why the virus thrives when the weather gets warmer.

The good news is that none of these spreading variants are thought to cause more severe disease. The symptoms doctors commonly see include a fever, sore throat and cough, as well as muscle aches and fatigue. However, it’s worth noting that long COVID is still a possibility with infection, and new reports highlight the seriousness of the condition, which can lead to chronic fatigue and other symptoms.

The usual things to avoid COVID still apply, such as wearing a high-quality mask, avoiding people who are sick and staying up-to-date with vaccinations. Updated vaccines are set to debut later this year.

🦟 Mosquito-borne illness is on the rise

This week, the CDC reported that Americans face an increased risk of dengue fever — a mosquito-borne illness that causes flu-like symptoms and can potentially be fatal. While rising temperatures due to climate change mean that there are more dengue-infected mosquitoes than in previous years, the summer is also a particularly hazardous time for Americans due to increased travel to places like Puerto Rico. The Caribbean island and U.S. territory previously declared a public health emergency due to its nearly 1,500 cases of the illness. The virus is also consistently present in American Samoa, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, with sporadic cases or small outbreaks occurring in Florida, Hawaii and Texas.

What it means for you: In the United States, the best thing you can do is minimize your exposure to standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitos. You can also check the dengue activity in your area (or places you're traveling to) in order to see if you should take other precautions, such as wearing an insect repellent registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. In order to be effective, your repellant should contain DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) and/or 2-Undecanone.

🍚 Rice-zempic is the latest wellness trend

TikTokers claim they’re shedding pounds like crazy thanks to a new drink dubbed “rice-zempic” — a play on Ozempic, the brand name for semaglutide, a drug used to manage diabetes that is also touted for its weight-loss side effects. The rice-zempic drink, which is made from leftover starchy rice water and a squeeze of lime, supposedly has appetite-suppressing properties, with some people claiming that they can lose up to 14 pounds a week while drinking this starchy beverage.

What it means for you: This isn’t the first food concoction to claim to mimic the effects of semaglutide: Previously, social media users claimed that “oatzempic” (essentially the same idea as “rice-zempic” but with blended oats instead of rice) led to rapid weight loss and appetite suppression. As with oatzempic before it, rice-zempic is just a cleverly named social media trend that has limited benefits for actual weight loss.

There’s no scientific reason to believe rice-zempic is going to help you lose weight. While the starch content provides a source of energy and expands in your stomach, potentially making you feel full, there are no mechanisms within this recipe that actually work to help you with weight loss. Semaglutide, on the other hand, mimics the hormone that works to regulate your blood sugar and appetite. This helps reduce “food noise,” or intrusive thoughts about food, as well as physical hunger, allowing you to stick to a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss.