There's a lot to unpack from this week's health headlines. People are eating snow, sipping "sleepy girl mocktails" before bed and — the latest research shows — ruining their sleep by downing energy drinks. In this week's health roundup, we're breaking down what experts make of the latest viral wellness trends — not surprisingly, you can ditch most of them — and highlighting what new studies say about what you should, and should not, be consuming.
From the Double Big Mac to edible (or not) snow to the fruit worth tossing in your shopping cart, here's the rundown on what you need to know.
Are energy drinks destroying your sleep?
Struggling to get a good night's rest? Put down that caffeinated energy drink. A Norwegian study of 53,000 people published in BMJ Open has linked energy drinks to insomnia and poor-quality sleep, and you don’t have to be downing one a day in order to see the negative effects. Researchers found that even occasional consumption — say, having an energy drink one to three times a month — was associated with a heightened risk of disturbed sleep. Those who regularly guzzle energy drinks, meanwhile, reported taking longer to fall asleep, waking more frequently during the night and experiencing overall poorer sleep quality.
Why kiwis might boost your mood
Researchers at the University of Otago have found that adding the fuzzy fruit to your diet improved energy and mood in as little as four days — and it did even better than a vitamin C supplement. The study involved 155 adults with low vitamin C levels who consumed either a vitamin C supplement, a placebo or two kiwifruit daily. According to the participants' surveys, kiwifruit made people feel better within four days, while vitamin C only showed a modest mood improvement.
Is it safe to eat snow?
Amid winter weather, snow has emerged as an unlikely dessert trend. Reese Witherspoon raised eyebrows when she recently ate a mugful of freshly fallen snow topped with salted caramel sauce and chocolate syrup and mixed with cold-brew coffee. The Oscar winner calls it a "Chococinno"; experts call it a potential health hazard. Speaking to HuffPost in 2016, Parisa Ariya, a professor of chemistry and atmospheric sciences at McGill University who studied whether snow was safe to eat, warned that it can absorb pollutants — especially in urban areas.
NBC News health editor Madelyn Fernstrom also weighed in on eating snow in a 2021 Today article: "Even if it looks clean, if it's been plowed or shoveled somehow and stacked up, you want to skip it, you want to get fresh snow that's coming down,” she said.
“Skip anything that is not snowy white, anything that's discolored at all," she added. While you can't "guarantee any snow will be contaminant free," Fernstrom noted that research suggests that the levels of contamination that might be lurking within doesn't "exceed any of the levels for anything else that you find anything in the atmosphere."
Is the sleepy girl mocktail worth it?
A nightcap that combines tart cherry juice, magnesium powder and prebiotic soda is making rounds on social media as the ultimate sleep-inducing drink, coined on TikTok as the “sleepy girl mocktail.” Experts agree that the concentration of melatonin found in tart cherry juice and its anti-inflammatory properties can help you doze off, and while more research needs to be done, magnesium has also been linked with better quality of sleep. However, that doesn’t make this drink a magic bullet for a great night of rest; some who have tried the trend have experienced mixed results — including increased anxiety. Experts have also noted that the prebiotic soda included in the mocktail recipe may cause stomach discomfort, which could ultimately keep you up at night — the exact opposite of what this beverage promotes. And anyone dealing with a medical condition should avoid it, or at the very least discuss it with their physician first.
Should you order a Double Big Mac?
For the first time in four years, McDonald's is serving the four-patty Double Big Mac. The good news, health experts say, is that the protein and fat content will keep diners feeling full long after they've wrapped (both) hands around this supersized burger. That said, the level of sodium and saturated fats should give people pause — especially if they're considering this as more than a rare indulgence.