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Could the internet be … good for you? Here’s what to know about this week’s health headlines

Hello, health-and-wellness enthusiasts. My name is Kaitlin, your weekly guide to the latest health news you may have missed.

First, let’s recap what my wonderful colleagues worked on this week.

  • Natalie Rahhal reports that mpox, the disease caused by the monkeypox virus, is spreading rapidly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and causing a global threat. Though the monkeypox virus peaked in the United States in 2022, experts have concerns — and advice on how to reduce your risk.

  • Sadly, the man who received the first pig kidney transplant has died — but as Natalie learned from the transplant expert she spoke with, there are still lots of reasons to have hope for the field of xenotransplantation, which very well could “turn medicine on its ear.”

  • Raw milk’s popularity is soaring, despite the many health risks associated with it. (And, in this season of bird flu, you have one more reason to steer clear.)

  • Oh, and it looks like your grandmother was right: As freelancer Sarah Hunter Simanson reported, new research says climbing stairs is great for your health — and it’s easier to incorporate into your life than you may assume. (Feel free to groan every time you skip the elevator, though … we don’t judge.)

  • Marie-Claire Dorking on the U.K. team also reported on a new study that found salting your food could increase your risk of stomach cancer by around 40%. She found that to cut back on your sodium content, the best advice is to learn to love herbs!

Here are other health headlines to know.

Finally, a study that isn’t telling us to limit our screen time. A new study published in the journal Technology, Mind, and Behavior analyzed data from 2.5 million people in 168 countries and found that roughly 85% of the time, people who have and use the internet report higher levels of well-being compared to those who don’t. This was true even when researchers adjusted their data to account for the economic levels of internet users.

Global life expectancy will increase by about four to five years by 2050, with the most significant gains in countries that have a lower life expectancy overall, according to findings published in the Lancet this week. The researchers believe this increase will be due to public health measures that reduce deaths from various communicable diseases (illnesses such as respiratory illnesses or tuberculosis that spread from person to person, or from animals, surfaces, or food) and that the bigger risk factor for early death will be diseases attributed to lifestyle factors, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In a new study published in PLOS One, researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy reviewed 48 studies to find that plant-based diets may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and premature death. These diets, which avoid or exclude animal products, show associations with better cholesterol levels, blood-sugar control, blood pressure and body weight, as well as reduced inflammation. The researchers note, however, that it’s important to eat a healthy plant-based diet because simply avoiding animal products may lead to mineral or vitamin deficiencies

A new report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned customers this week to avoid Yogi Echinacea Immune Support tea. The tea was recalled because “pesticide residues were detected above action levels,” the FDA stated. Though the health risks of pesticides vary depending on the chemical used, concerns include potential neurological effects, respiratory issues, endocrine disruption and cancer.

Human support may be important when it comes to supporting weight loss, according to a new study by Northwestern Medicine. The study looked at 400 adults with obesity and compared weight loss outcomes between those using an app, Wi-Fi scale and Fitbit alone and those using the same technology plus telehealth coaching. Those who solely used technology to support their efforts weren’t as effective in losing weight as those who also used a human coach, suggesting that while technology can be helpful, it can’t yet replace personal interaction.

A study by the University of South Australia found that the Mediterranean diet lowers stress and anxiety symptoms in older adults. In its study of 294 Australians who were 60 and older, researchers observed that specific diet components — fruit, nuts, legumes, and minimal sugar-sweetened drinks — were particularly impactful when it came to these mental health benefits.

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