The 4 best exercise balls we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An exercise ball is perfect for working on stability and flexibility and makes bodyweight exercises harder.
  • The best exercise balls have a durable exterior, are mild flexibility, and retain air well.
  • Our top pick, the TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball, has thick walls and holds air even if punctured.

Exercise balls might seem like a boring piece of workout equipment that sits in the corner of the gym with no one using it. But that’s only because it’s an overlooked dark horse – the benefits of adding one to your workout far outweigh any perceived dullness. In fact, as a part of a home gym setup, an exercise ball has the ability to greatly improve one’s core strength while also helping hone balance and flexibility.

Whether it accompanies a daily workout routine or becomes the central focal point, an exercise ball can be an important part of anyone’s plan to keep fit and healthy. (For what it’s worth, while many used to think using an exercise ball in lieu of your home office chair was better for your spine, experts actually recommend against it now.)

To find the best exercise balls worth using, I tested an assortment of models from brands like TheraBand, DynaPro, and Wacces. The goal was to find those that fit a variety of use cases, like being portable or constructed of a thicker material that increases its durability. After spending the last several months using exercise balls as both my office chair and main workout partner, I narrowed the list down to my four favorites listed below.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into what to look for in a quality ball, the exact benefits of using one, and why they’re an important part of anyone’s home gym setup.

Here are the best exercise balls:

The best exercise ball overall

exercise ball

The TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball holds air better than most exercise balls — even if it’s punctured.

Pros: Maintains its shape and holds air better than other exercise balls, includes a slow deflate technology if the ball is punctured, extremely firm, has a good surface for just the right amount of grip, offered in four sizes

Cons: Takes a long time to inflate, no inflation pump included, only one color per size

One common complaint among exercise ball fans is the inability of the ball to hold air over time. As air leaks out of the ball, it loses its firmness and becomes difficult to use. The TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball, though, is one of the thickest-walled balls you can buy, and it holds air longer than most of the competition.

Even if it’s punctured, the ball will deflate very slowly, allowing you to finish your workout. Because the Theraband Exercise Ball retains air so well, you won’t have to reinflate it that often, which is a very good thing because this ball does take quite a bit of time to inflate in the first place.

The exercise ball is available in four sizes from 45 cm to 75 cm and it comes in a few colors.

The best portable exercise ball

DynaPro Exercise Ball

The DynaPro Exercise Ball is extremely durable and will hold its air pressure nicely, but it’s also portable, thanks to its easy-to-carry hand pump.

Pros: Good price point, easy to fill while on the go because of an included hand pump, very durable material in the ball, prevents fast leaks when it suffers a puncture, available in four sizes and four different colors

Cons: Cannot fully inflate the ball the first time you use it, firmness level of the ball seems below average

When you’re looking for an exercise ball you can take with you anywhere, the DynaPro Exercise Ball is a good idea. It ships with a hand pump and inflates faster than many other balls, so you can be ready to use it within several minutes.

The ball is available in four sizes, ranging from 45 cm to 75 cm, and it features slight ribs around the circumference of the ball to ensure a steady grip. You can get it in a few fun colors, including pink, blue, silver, gray, and black.

Like many exercise balls, you can also use it for active seating in your office. Unlike most exercise balls, it’s available in gray or black, which fits in better with an office setting than a brightly colored ball. 

This is a tough, durable exercise ball, featuring a 2,000-pound burst rating. The ball also slowly deflates if it ever suffers a puncture, allowing you to finish your workout safely.

However, the ball cannot be inflated fully the first time you use it. You’ll have to inflate it fully after it’s had 2-3 days to stretch out.

The best exercise ball for bigger bodies

tall man exercise ball

The Live Infinitely Exercise Ball receives high marks for its durability and ability to stand up to tough workouts.

Pros: Excellent price point, durable and tough exercise ball that can withstand 2,200 pounds of weight, available in as large as 95 cm diameter, five color and five size options, includes a large library of online exercise guides

Cons: There is no 45 cm diameter size option in this model, difficult to fully inflate this ball

We’re not here to say what an average-sized body is or who is bigger-than-average. But if you’ve ever sat on an exercise ball before and felt like it couldn’t support your height, width, weight, or frame for whatever reason, you need a ball that is bigger and more durable so you aren’t worrying about it popping or slipping out from under you.

In fact, you want your exercise ball to correspond to your size for a few reasons: When you’re sitting on it, you want it to be durable enough to hold your weight and wide enough to hold your buttocks. When you put it underfoot in plank or, say, Bulgarian split squats, the height of the ball influences your form; too small of a ball and your feet are below your hips which can compromise the integrity of your movements, for example.

Because of this, a ball that’s right for someone who’s 5’3 isn’t going to fit someone who’s 6’8, and someone who is 350lbs needs a more durable construction than someone who is 150lbs. (Learn more about What to look for in an exercise ball.)

The Live Infinitely Exercise Ball is one of the few options that comes in five sizes ranging from 55 cm to 95 cm. You can also choose between five colors, including blue, green, gray, purple, and silver.

What’s more, it can hold up to 2,200 pounds of pressure. So while we doubt you’ll ever max out its capabilities, the Live Infinitely Exercise Ball allows you to feel comfortable and secure putting all your weight and force onto it, regardless of your size.

The best budget exercise ball

exercise ball 5

If you want an affordable exercise ball that’s also durable, the Wacces Fitness and Exercise ball is a great option.

Pros: Extremely low price point, good build quality versus similarly priced exercise balls, surface has just enough grip to prevent slippage, ribs around circumference of ball provide extra grip, offered in eight colors

Cons: Only available in three sizes, difficult to fully inflate it first time you use it, doesn’t hold air pressure as well as some models

With some low-priced exercise balls, you may feel wary about placing your full weight on them for fear of an exploding ball that leaves you crashing onto the floor. But the durability of the Wacces Fitness and Exercise Ball gives you the peace of mind you’ll need to use this inexpensive ball to its fullest.

Even though it’s less expensive than other options, this ball is still quite durable and has a good grippy surface. The biggest downside is that it doesn’t support as much weight as more high-end exercise balls.

You can pick between three different sizes, ranging from 55 cm to 75 cm. It’s also available in eight colors, including black, blue, gray, green, pink, purple, red, or yellow.

What to look for in an exercise ball

Yes, an exercise ball is a simple, large round ball that looks like every other exercise ball at first glance. There are still several key differences you can pay attention to when looking to find the right exercise ball to meet your needs.

  • Ease of adding air: Some exercise balls include an air pump, however, most of these pumps work very slowly. If you want a faster option, you should be able to use almost any type of pump to inflate your exercise ball, such as an air mattress pump, a bicycle tire pump, or even an air compressor. To determine when the ball is properly filled with air, measure its diameter.
  • Extras: Depending on the model of exercise ball you pick, you may find the ball ships with an air pump, exercise bands, a stability ring, stability legs, a measuring tape, an exercise tip guide, or handles built into the ball. 
  • Size: The size of a stability ball is determined by its diameter. Common sizes of exercise balls range from 45 cm to 85 cm in 10 cm intervals. (Ten centimeters is roughly 4 inches.) People shorter than 5 feet will have the best results with sitting on a 45 cm ball, 6-feet-tall people will want a 65 cm ball, and those 6-foot-8 and taller will want an 85 cm ball. 
  • Supported weight: Exercise balls should offer supported weight limits for static weight and body weight. Static weight refers to the weight the ball supports without bursting when the user is not moving. Bodyweight refers to the weight it can support when the user is exercising. High-end balls may support static weight limits of 2,200 pounds and body weights of 500 pounds. A stability ball placed under too much weight or stress could burst.

Exercise ball benefits

man family exercise ball

People use an exercise ball for two main reasons: to workout with and to sit on. While we fully support using this accessory in your workout, most chiropractors and physical therapists actually recommend you don’t trade your office chair for a ball. Studies have found it not only makes prolonged sitting more uncomfortable, but it doesn’t actually activate your muscles better and may in fact contribute to spinal shrinkage (aka slumping). This is all because you must keep your core engaged for optimal spinal alignment, and it’s incredibly hard to maintain perfect posture when sitting for a long time.

That being said, an exercise ball is safe and a great challenge to your body during a workout, where you’re only stabilizing against it for a few minutes at a time. Here are some of the primary benefits exercise balls provide during a workout:

  • Improved balance: You’ll naturally strengthen your abs and back muscles while using an exercise ball because you must subtly shift your weight to remain balanced. As these muscles strengthen, your overall balance improves.
  • Core strength: Athletes constantly talk about the importance of having core strength in the body, as it gives you great balance and coordination. Using an exercise ball increases core strength.
  • Muscle work: Because you have to continually adjust your weight slightly to maintain your balance on the ball, you’ll be using different muscle groups, which benefits your whole body.
  • Rehabilitation and flexibility: You’ll stretch muscles and joints while moving around. Physical therapists sometimes assign a set of exercises using an exercise ball for people to follow as part of rehabilitating a specific joint or muscle group to gain more range of motion.
  • Specific exercises: If you enjoy exercises like Pilates or yoga, you’ll gain some additional benefits by incorporating an exercise ball into the routine.

Why exercise balls are an important part of a home gym

Despite their inherent value, exercise balls aren’t typically the first piece of gear you think of when piecing together a home gym. The truth is in the application, as they work for a host of exercises requiring flexible support. Even though an exercise ball is round, it gives you a base that’s more solid than you might think and provides impressive stability.  

The balls compress when weight is put on them to create a flatter, more stable edge. It won’t be as stable as a normal chair but it’s far more solid than you’d expect — which is what makes them great for everything from active seating to working out.

An exercise ball is an amazing addition to any ab workout, as you can hold it between your feet to bump the challenge of leg raises or prop your feet on the ball during plank for more of a core challenge. You can also sit on the ball instead of a bench to activate your core during simple exercises like chest flys and overhead presses. (Learn more from our guide on the best at-home exercise ball routines.)

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Simone Biles deserves all the praise for prioritizing her mental health. And it’s a good reminder that many Americans can’t afford to take time off when they need it.

Simone Biles looks on during the Tokyo Olympics.
Simone Biles at the Tokyo Games.

  • Simone Biles was rightly praised for prioritizing her mental health during the Olympics.
  • But most people can’t afford to take time off work when their mental health is suffering.
  • Calls for self care mean little if we don’t make systemic changes to reduce economic stressors.
  • Nicole Froio is a freelance journalist and researcher. She writes about pop culture, feminism, queerness, violence against women, digital cultures and much more.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

This week, four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew from the 2020 Olympic Games to care for her mental health. After a wobbly vault run where Biles risked serious injury, the athlete admitted that the high stakes of the Olympics felt like too much, and the stress was affecting her performance.

“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and my wellbeing,” Biles said. “We’re not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day, and sometimes you just have to step back.”​

At 24, Biles made the difficult decision to quit and prioritize her own wellbeing over the possibility of winning gold – and the expectations of millions of fans. Her supporters rightfully note the amount of pressure Biles has been under, praising her wisdom to drop out before she hurt herself.

And Biles and her supporters are right: Quitting when your work is harming you takes courage and is an immense burden to parse out. The fact Biles was able to understand her own limitations and communicate her boundaries to the world in such a high-pressure competition is no small feat, and she should be commended for it.

Many people have taken this moment to call on others to also take stock of their mental health and take a rest when they need it. Those of us who have struggled with mental illness for most of our lives are all too familiar with this phenomenon: There’s a cycle of mental health affirmations that circulate on social media everytime a famous person opens up about their mental struggles.

The problem is that these affirmations don’t actually reflect a society where mental self care is truly taken seriously. Particularly after a pandemic where many of us experienced death and trauma, but were barely granted time away from work to process a global disaster, the gap between “it’s okay not to be okay” and actual mental health provisions at work feels enormous.

Everyone should have the right to quit or take paid time off to care for their own wellbeing. But the reality is that many of us can’t afford to take time off or quit, as much as we know our mental health is suffering. It’s a fantasy to keep repeating that mental health is important and we must care for it, without actually looking at the crushing pressures of capitalism and how they manifest in the workplace. The constant grind of working for food and shelter doesn’t allow most workers to take time off for self care and rest.

I can’t afford to pause for my mental wellbeing

By far, one of the hardest parts of being mentally ill is dealing with work stressors and financial responsibilities. I have been semi-public about my struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and depression for almost a decade, and I was recently diagnosed with PTSD. As part of my treatment plan, I’m being encouraged to slow down the pace of my working life, but quitting isn’t simply a matter of choice.

As a freelance journalist, I have to follow the news cycle to make money and be able to pay rent and bills. I wish I could simply drop everything and take extended time off. But I can’t afford to spend a whole month unpaid, nor do I feel like I can risk editors forgetting that I’m available to be commissioned by being on hiatus.

Plus, treating any mental illness is expensive. Though I’d love to only focus on becoming mentally well rather than working, I also need to make enough money to pay for my mental health treatment out of pocket. In addition to paying for food and rent, I also need to pay for my medication, my psychiatrist, and my therapist.

It’s a never ending cycle: I should slow down to take care of myself, but to take care of myself, I need to make money, so I exhaust myself to make money and be able to pay for treatment. The odds are against me, but my situation can illuminate what we should be focusing on when we talk about mental health and wellbeing. There needs to be efforts to care for our mental health that go beyond the rhetorical.

We need systemic changes to truly prioritize mental health

A good place to start would be raising the minimum wage and decreasing job insecurity. A recent study determined that a mere $1 increase in minimum hourly wage can decrease suicide rates. Job insecurity is directly related to higher rates of anxiety and somatic symptoms, so creating jobs where people feel secure is essential to caring for people’s mental health.

Prioritizing mental health has to be a concrete possibility for everyone, even when their wages are high and they have a secure job. This means that employers, institutions, and governments have to prioritize mental health over productivity and profit, rather than sending out memos and social media posts with empty platitudes about taking care of our mental health. Paid time off without consequences and a good healthcare plan are basic mental health provisions any employer should be giving their employees.

Biles is right: Everyone should have the right to quit harmful situations that are detrimental to their mental health. But no matter how many infographics I see on Instagram that tell me my mental health is the most important thing in my life, the rhetorical affirmation that I deserve to be well won’t change my current material inability to slow down and get the treatment I deserve. We need concrete ways to care for ourselves and our minds, and that requires major structural changes in our places of work and in how we make our money.

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Israel will roll out a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to older people, citing a drop in protection against severe disease driven by the Delta variant

israel vaccine
A person receives a coronavirus vaccine in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 6.

  • Israel will begin offering booster shots of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine this weekend.
  • The vaccine’s protection against severe illness waned over time from 97% to 81%, officials said.
  • With the rise of the Delta variant, many countries are considering booster doses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Israel will start offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to its older citizens on Sunday, as health officials described new data showing a decline in the vaccine’s protection against severe disease over time.

A key unknown with the COVID-19 vaccine is how long protection will last. The emergence and spread of the Delta variant has intensified that uncertainty, with the variant showing the ability to partially evade the vaccine’s protection.

In response to the latest data, Israel is offering a third dose of the vaccine to its citizens who are 60 and older and at least five months removed from their second shot. Other countries are also considering if and when to roll out booster shots. Israel had already begun offering booster shots to some people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients.

There has been a trickle of studies in recent weeks suggesting protection from Pfizer’s vaccine starts to wane after several months. Israel’s decision was motivated by signals of decreased efficacy, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Read more: Pfizer doubles down on the case for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots

In particular, one Israeli scientist said the country had data showing the vaccine’s protection against severe illness among this 60-plus age group dropped from 97% in April to 81% in July. Those results have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal or posted on a preprint server.

Eric Topol, the director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said on Twitter that if these results held up, they would be “the first sign of a significant dropdown of protection against hospitalizations and death for these vaccines.”

“I hope all of the data will be shared ASAP as the implications are big,” he tweeted.

Israel’s findings appear at odds with reports from the UK in June, with one large observational study finding Pfizer’s vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization from the Delta variant by 96%. One difference between the two findings is that Israel’s results are specific to an older population.

Pfizer presented more results on Wednesday supporting the company’s stance that boosters would be needed six to 12 months after initial vaccination. Laboratory testing by Pfizer showed neutralizing antibodies, a key part of the immune response, significantly declined eight months after the second dose of its vaccine among all age groups.

The New York drugmaking giant also posted new, detailed results from its clinical trial that enrolled more than 40,000 volunteers. Longer-term follow-up showed the vaccine’s ability to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 cases, regardless of severity, dipped to 84% starting four months after the second dose, compared with 96% efficacy in the first two months.

The vaccine’s overall efficacy against severe disease in that study was 97%, with 30 cases occurring among people who received placebo shots and one case in a person who got the vaccine.

Pfizer’s findings have also yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, and the company said it would submit an application to US regulators in August to begin offering booster shots.

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Plastic surgeons say they’re more booked up than ever, as demand for procedures like Brazilian butt lifts break records

A peach with marks on its sides with a green upwards trending arrow on a pale yellow gridded background.
Plastic surgeons said high demand for Brazilian butt lifts (or “BBLs”) has resulted in a record number of cosmetic surgery appointments.

  • Plastic surgeons across the country told Insider they are seeing record numbers of patients.
  • Demand for butt augmentation has increased, per the The Aesthetic Society.
  • Brazilian butt lifts, or BBLs, have gained attention on social media like TikTok.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dr. Carlos Burnett, a plastic surgeon in New Jersey, has appointments booked every day until March 2022.

Burnett said he previously considered his practice busy if he was booked two or more months in advance, even as he services the upscale Westfield, New Jersey, neighborhood. The plastic surgeon said he had not expected the huge spike in surgery bookings after spending months without work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You don’t want to jinx yourself, but it’s something that I’ve not seen in 25 years of practice,” Burnett said regarding the high demand for cosmetic surgeries.

Burnett is one of several plastic surgeons who told Insider they are seeing record numbers of patients make appointments for butt augmentation and other procedures as pandemic restrictions lifted this spring.

New Jersey-based plastic surgeon Dr. Carlos Burnett in office wearing mask and gloves
Dr. Carlos Burnett

Facial procedures and Botox saw an unexpected spike in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the American Society of Plastic Surgeons dubbed the “Zoom boom” after more people spent time staring at themselves on video calls.

Demand for plastic surgery has extended into 2021, according to The Aesthetic Society president Dr. William P. Adams, driven by a high demand for butt augmentation procedures.

In 2020, surgeons performed 40,000 butt augmentation procedures that brought in $140 million worth of revenue, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The number of butt augmentation surgeries – also called Brazilian butt lifts or “BBLs” – increased by 90.3% between 2015 to 2019.

Adams attributed the significant growth of butt augmentation procedures’ popularity to celebrity trends and social media. One TikTok purporting to show butt augmentation patients crowding in an airport line has 3.2 million views.

The surgery’s new popularity has even led to a meme: the “BBL effect.” Coined by TikTok creator Antoni Bumba, the BBL effect is the unbothered confidence of those who have elected to bolster their buttocks.

New York City-based plastic surgeon Dr. Norman Rowe said he’s seen a record number of patients inquiring about a BBL. A year ago, Rowe said he got a phone call asking for butt augmentation consultation around three to four times per week; now, he gets multiple calls asking about butt lifts everyday.

Like Burnett, Rowe said his schedule is booked for the next calendar year. His procedure numbers are 30% to 35% higher than last year.

Read more: A record 167 firms spent millions of dollars lobbying on cannabis as Amazon, investment banks, and tobacco companies race for a piece of the growing weed industry

Burnett said he believes demand is up as more of his patients opt to spend their disposable income on plastic surgery than vacations or expensive jewelry. Average national costs for butt augmentation dropped from $5,507 in 2018 to $3,329 in 2020, making the procedure slightly more accessible beyond just the rich and famous, Burnett added.

Brazilian butt lifts have also become safer to perform when done by board-certified plastic surgeons, according to Dr. Mark Mofid, a California-based plastic surgeon and author of the 2017 paper “Report on Mortality from Gluteal Fat Grafting.”

Plastic surgeon Dr. Norman Rowe sits in his New York City office.
Dr. Norman Rowe

Mofid and his team at the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation found gluteal fat grafting, or the process of transferring stomach fat to the butt, had a “significantly higher” mortality rate than other cosmetic procedures because surgeons would more regularly inject fat into deep muscle and use smaller surgical instruments.

Since Mofid’s paper came out, board certified surgeons have adopted safer methods of performing butt augmentation procedures. Mofid and the doctors quoted in this article said the procedure is safer than in the past, but cautioned prospective patients to find a board-certified doctor who can perform the operation in a hospital and who stays up-to-date with latest safety research.

Mofid added he’s now the busiest he’s ever been in his career. Despite the heavy workload, each plastic surgeon told Insider they don’t feel burned out because they are passionate about their work.

“Am I working harder than I was two years ago? Yeah,” Rowe said. “Would I trade places with anybody? Not a chance in hell. I love what I do.”

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Making these three lifestyle changes will help you take the best poop, according to science

Following is a transcript of the video.

There’s honestly nothing more satisfying than a good poop. On the flip side, a bad poop can ruin your day. You know what I’m talking about. Too hard, too soft, too sudden, not soon enough. If this isn’t ringing any bells, congrats on being the world’s only perfect pooper! A title to wear with pride.

For the rest of us, we have to work at it. The good news is we have science on our side. There are a bunch of things we can do to smooth out the kinks in our digestive system, and some of them are very literal. But real quick, let us introduce you to the Bristol stool scale, a handy-dandy chart listing the different types of poop your body can make. They range from type one, hard lumps, to type seven, totally liquid. When it comes to No. 2, you actually want to be a type three or four. Anything before indicates constipation; anything after gets closer to diarrhea. Depending on where you land on the scale, there are a number of things you can do to get that coveted smooth snake. Let’s start with short-term solutions. [mooing] Mooing like a cow, or making a similar noise if you aren’t feeling particularly bovine, can help reduce straining. You’ll want to lean forward with your elbows on your knees while you do it. The idea is to open up your belly and get yourself in a more efficient pooping position.

You see, sitting toilets were designed all wrong. Sitting straight up with your feet planted on the ground actually makes it harder to squeeze one out. Too much straining and pushing can lead to hemorrhoids, most of all, but sometimes even prolapse. Thanks to how our bodies are built, we’re better off in a squat. It’s all in the gut. Look at the angle of her rectum when she stands up. It’s bent at about 80 degrees right where it meets the anal canal, fittingly named the anorectal angle. Sort of like kinking a hose, this bend helps you control your bowels, along with the muscles in the same area.

When you sit, that angle unfolds to about 100 degrees, and squatting opens it even further. Opening up that pathway makes it easier for stuff to slide on through. But even though our porcelain thrones aren’t suited for squatting, there are ways to adapt. You can throw your feet up on a stool or even just a couple of rolls of toilet paper. Or the dedicated can buy a product specifically made for this purpose, like the Squatty Potty or Nature’s Platform. One study followed over 50 healthy poopers through 1,000 collective bowel movements using the Squatty Potty. The experiment started with a two-week control period of unassisted pooping.

Then, participants spent another two weeks using the Squatty Potty. 90% of the participants strained less, and over 70% spent less time on the toilet. Speaking of, we are very sorry, but put down your phone. Even you, person who’s watching this on the can right now. Taking your phone or a book to the bathroom just encourages you to stay in there longer, which, again, leads back to straining and putting excess pressure on your rectum and anus. Getting up off the toilet can help you in more ways than one.

Generally the more you move, the more you poop. Exercising can jostle around your innards, helping shake up food, gas, and waste to move through your system. That means less time for your lower intestine to absorb water from your stool. And wet, soft poops are easier to pass. So going for a quick jog could be helpful if you’re constipated. Not so much if you have diarrhea. What you eat can also help. Yep, we’re talking fiber. Fiber is helpful no matter which end of the stool scale you’re on, but not all fiber is created equal.

There are actually two main types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, turning gooey and spongy. It comes from things like fruit flesh, root vegetables, and cooked grains. This stuff takes its time sliding through your digestive track, which helps regulate movements. You want to start introducing this type of fiber to your diet if you’re hovering around a type six or seven. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, mostly keeps its shape when wet. This fiber from fruit skins, leafy greens, and the outer layer of most whole grains adds to the bulk of the stool. It puts pressure on your colon walls and stimulates movement. So this is what you’re looking for to fix a type one or two, but you don’t want to load up on either fiber all at once.

First, you want to suss out if fiber is really your issue at all. If you normally eat plenty of insoluble fiber but you’re still constipated, then more probably isn’t gonna help. And too much fiber too quickly can make you bloated or gassy. When in doubt, go see your doctor. They might recommend probiotics, which can help reduce bloating and gas as well as constipation. When you first start taking them, you might end up in type six or seven territory for a few days, but that should go away. And if adding stuff to your diet doesn’t help, maybe try taking stuff away. Dairy, caffeine, meats, spicy foods, alcohol, grease, certain fruits, and artificial sweeteners have all been known to cause diarrhea. Cutting all or some of that stuff could help relieve those bowel-control issues.

Keeping a food diary to find connections between snacks and symptoms is also recommended, and that way you don’t have to give up on all the good stuff at once. If you’re not the world’s only perfect pooper, taking the perfect poop isn’t always easy. But it should never be as hard as a type one. With these tips and tricks in your back pocket, you are well on your way to the throne. Now go eat, drink, and jog your way to the best poop of your life. You earned it, champ.

Everybody deserves a perfect poo, but always make sure to check with your doctor before you make significant changes to your diet or lifestyle. But you could probably moo all you want without a doctor’s note. And subscribe below if you want more ways to optimize your life with science.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in September 2020.

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The 6 best at-home teeth whitening kits in 2021, according to dentists

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • At-home teeth whitening kits help lift surface stains, but many are expensive and hurt your teeth.
  • We asked six professional dentists to recommend their go-to at-home teeth-whitening products.
  • Our top pick, Crest 3D White Professional Effects, is effective, simple, and fairly affordable.

Wanting whiter teeth in a world of first impressions and social media needs no explanation. But which at-home teeth whitening kits won’t make your pearlies sensitive after one round – that’s much harder.

In actuality, the most effective way to whiten your teeth is at the dentist’s office; however, that’s expensive and inaccessible for many people. Whitening toothpastes can help with daily maintenance, but they won’t create that ‘wow’ factor. At-home teeth whitening kits can save you money, time, and allow you to regularly re-whiten as needed (aka, as your coffee and red wine habit sees fit). The problem: A lot of whitening kits are too strong, causing your gums to become sensitive to pressure and your teeth sensitive to cold after just one use.

To find the most effective at-home teeth whitening products, including options for sensitive teeth, we asked a handful of dentists what the best teeth whiteners are for a brighter smile ASAP. We took into consideration options for sensitive teeth and gums, folks on a budget, and other buying factors. We tested many of their suggestions, as well as leading brands on the market, and combed through research and ratings. Each of the teeth whitening kits below are effective, easy to use, and less likely to irritate your teeth or gums.

Here are the best teeth whitening kits you can buy:

The best teeth whitening kit overall

crest whitening kit

Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips are effective, won’t slide around during treatment, easy to find at any drugstore, and have a less-concentrated formula for minimal sensitivity.

Pros: Produces results in four or five uses, recommended by dentists, low peroxide levels

Cons: May irritate the gums

Pack count: 20 treatments

Easy to put on and with an effective formula, Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips offers the most bang for your buck and is a favorite of Neil Hadaegh DDS, a professional dentist in Beverly Hills.

The gel is contained in strips that you press to mold around your teeth — so much so that Crest says you can even drink water and talk while wearing the strips thanks to their “Advanced Seal Technology.”

This formula typically has a lower concentration (10%) of Hydrogen Peroxide so it’s better for people who have sensitive teeth and can’t tolerate higher levels.

The Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips kit comes with 40 strips for 20 treatments (each treatment consists of a strip on the upper teeth and one on the lower teeth.) You are supposed to wear the strips for 30 minutes, once per day. Crest claims that after the 20 daily treatments, you can remove 14 years of tooth stains. 

However, strips don’t offer the custom fit of trays, which means you may notice some increased sensitivity if your gums come in contact with the whitening strips.

The best whitening trays

opalescence

If you’re looking for more precision in your application to avoid gum sensitivity, your best bet is combining teeth whitening gel with mouth trays or guards like in the Opalescence Go 15% kit.

Pros: Effective, greater control over application, potentially less gum sensitivity

Cons: Expensive, may cause sensitivity

Pack count: 10 treatments

The benefit of using a mouth tray or mouth guard with gel is that, unlike white strips, you aren’t as likely to miss spots on the teeth or irritate your gums. 

Opalescence is known for its whitening products in the dental industry. I’ve gotten amazing results with the Opalescence 35% formula, which is a syringe you squirt into your own trays and is slightly more intense. Heather Kunen, DDS, orthodontist and co-owner of Beam Street in New York recommended the Opalescence Go to Insider for how easy and mess-free the process is is to use to get that same high-quality whitening Opalescence is known for.

Dr. Hadaegh also likes this product, adding that the trays adapt to your teeth all the way to your molars. “They have 15% hydrogen peroxide, which means you only need to wear them for 15 to 20 minutes a day for five to 10 days. It also contains potassium nitrate and fluoride to help reduce sensitivity while strengthening enamel.”

However, because the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is so high, there’s a chance you may still experience some sensitivity, in which case it’s best to switch to a less concentrated alternative like Crest Whitestrips.

The best for sensitive teeth and gums

zimba white strips

Zimba white strips whiten over 7 to 14 days without causing major tooth or gum sensitivity and come in tasty flavors.

Pros: Affordable, no-slip strips

Cons: Only covers front 10 teeth (upper and lower), takes about a week to whiten, whitening doesn’t last

Pack count: 14 treatments

If you’re looking for teeth whitening strips but have had issues with teeth sensitivity in the past, Kunen suggested Zimba white strips. It’s made with a gentle formula that uses a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide.

One box contains 28 stain-removing strips (14 upper, 14 lower) which cover your front 10 teeth on top and 10 on the bottom. The strips stay on pretty well with anti-slip technology and they’re slick, so there’s no gel or goop. Moreover, you can choose between two tasty flavors, coconut or mint.

Zimba says you’ll see whiter teeth in 14 days, and it truly does take at least one week to start seeing any difference. The major downside here is that the whitening doesn’t seem to last long — most reviewers say you have to use the strips regularly to maintain results. But that’s not surprising considering the formula is gentler, and considering these are about as cheap as you can get for an effective whitening kit, these are a great way to whiten before an event without breaking the bank. –Rachael Schultz, health and fitness updates editor

The best LED kit

smile direct club

If you don’t want to use strips and are determined to use an LED light, the SmileDirectClub Teeth Whitening Kit is the way to go.

Pros: Few reports of sensitivity issues, more precise application of whitening gel, reusable mouth guard

Cons: Expensive, dentists agree the LED light will not make a noticeable difference 

Pack count: 14-28 treatments

The idea of LED teeth whitening kits has mixed reviews: Brands claim the light helps make teeth whitening more effective than traditional whitening strips or trays, but there aren’t any studies to support this claim and many dentists feel like they don’t speed up the process. Patrick Campbell, DDS put it succinctly when speaking with Insider: “Frankly, these products are not worth the money.”

That being said, LED whitening kits are probably as effective as the other options so they’re not a waste of money if you can find a well-priced option. Also, they come with whitening pens that allow you a bit more control in terms of the application so you can avoid your gums and any increased sensitivity, and they usually require you to spend less time per day with the formula on your teeth.

If you want to try an LED whitening kit, SmileDirectClub’s Teeth Whitening Kit is one of the most convenient choices and about the same price as non-LED options.

The direct-to-consumer kit includes a LED mouthguard to act as a catalyst for the hydrogen peroxide whitening formula. It only requires 10 minutes a day of use and comes with nine whitening pens (enough for two full treatments). When I tested the device, I found the company’s estimates to be conservative — I got more than double the use out of the pens than expected, which is a great value for the money.

I loved that the LED device just plugs into your smartphone for power. 

SmileDirectClub’s Teeth Whitening Kit is $74 for the LED Light and an estimated 12-month supply of whitening pens, and $40 for the LED Light and 6-month pen supply. You can find them all here.

Read our full review on SmileDirectClub’s LED whitening kit.

The best natural kit

teeth whitening

The Miswak Club Natural Teeth Whitening Kit is your best alternative if you’re looking for a natural, chemical-free approach to whitening your teeth.

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to use, no added chemicals

Cons: Takes some getting used to, smells weird

Pack count: 40 treatments

Teeth-cleaning sticks known as Miswak have been used for thousands of years in what is now Pakistan, India, many African countries, and other parts of the world. And, a meta-analysis in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine found that the Miswak was just as effective for oral hygiene as the toothbrush and toothpaste used by Western cultures.

The Miswak Club Natural Teeth Whitening Kit features two Miswak root sticks with two carrying cases. Each stick will last for three weeks of daily use. Miswak comes from the Arak tree, and this product contains no pesticides or chemicals. Miswak Club offers a 120-day money-back guarantee if you do not have noticeably whiter teeth after using their kit.

It has a sweet musky smell (which some people like and others really don’t) and doesn’t make a mess. Some reviewers have noted that it may take a few weeks of daily use to notice effects and that the smell may be a bit off-putting.

The best for professional-level results

linhart

If you want the intenser results of whitening at a dentist’s office, but at home, the Linhart Teeth Whitening Collection uses a formula from cosmetic dentists in New York City.

Pros: Professional-grade results, easy to use

Cons: Expensive, LED has minimal proven advantage

“This whitening system was custom designed by high-end cosmetic dentists in New York City and utilizes the same whitening gel they use in their office on their patients,” Dr. Kunen, who has no affiliation with Linhart, explained.

The kit contains four syringes of 35% carbamide peroxide whitening gel, an LED whitening light to activate the gel, and a milder whitening gel to help maintain your results. It’s a bit pricier than other at-home kits but, as Kunen pointed out, “For those patients looking to replicate a chairside whitening experience, this is closest you will find!” –Rachael Schultz, health and fitness updates editor

What else we considered

What else we recommend

Glowup LED Kit ($35): This direct-to-consumer LED whitening start up will personalize the whitening formula to your level of tooth/gum sensivity and discoloration. The LED light is powered by your phone and requires 16 minutes of use. It only comes with three gel vials and the syringes aren’t the most intuitive to spread on your teeth, so SmileDirectClub is a better choice for most people. But if you have sensitive teeth and want lasting results, Glowup is a great option. (Read our full review here.)

Snow LED Kit ($149): This well-designed LED teeth whitening kit comes with 4 serum pens (no syringes) that are easy to apply precisely to your teeth. All four will last you 75 treatments. The mouthpiece is very comfortable to bite for the suggested 10 minutes and plugs into your phone for power. The kit is quite pricey, but I saw results after two uses, so the included treatments will allow a whole family to whiten regularly for basically all of time.

Opalescence PF 35% Whitening Gel ($45.49): This is a cheaper alternative to the Opalescence Go that Dr. Kunen and Dr. Hadaegh both recommend, delivering the same Carbamide Peroxide formula in a syringe. You’ll need to use your own mouth trays, but we can confirm it delivers whiter teeth after just a few 30-minute sessions.

Lumibrite 32% Whitening Gel($25): Dr. Hadaegh told Insider that Lumibrite causes little to no sensitivity, while also producing excellent whitening results due to its high concentration of Carbamide Peroxide. It does require custom bleaching trays.

Zoom NiteWhite 22% Whitening Gel ($30): NiteWhite is a clinical-grade tooth whitening gel of 22% Carbamide Peroxide. It’s medium strength, so it’s an excellent option for individuals who have some tooth sensitivity but want a whitening gel that’s not too strong or too weak, Hadaegh said.

HiSmile Whitening ($130): If whitening kits have left your teeth or gums sensitive in the past, Kunen suggested this brand which uses Pthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP) as its principal whitening agent as opposed to the more traditional and harsher peroxides. It’s definitely more expensive than the other options, but it’s also super easy to use.

What we don’t recommend

GLO Teeth Whitening Kit ($150): Glo Science sells a similar device to SmileDirectClub; both use an LED mouthpiece to reportedly act as a catalyst for hydrogen peroxide. But SmileDirectClub is a better value at half the cost. We still recommend strips over gel and mouth trays over LED light options, though.

FAQs about whitening your teeth

What types of teeth whitening products exist?

There are essentially two types of kits: ones that bleach your teeth to take stains off and ones that physically scrape off the stains. Whitening trays and strips have been the standard for decades and generally rely on carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. Activated charcoal powders had a spike in popularity recently, but the dentists we interviewed would tell you to nix the powders. Ira Handschuh, DDS, cosmetic dentist at The Dental Design Center in White Plains, NY and Ania Mohelicki, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in Boulder, CO both told Business Insider that they don’t recommend these because they can be abrasive and only remove surface stains. 

There is a third type of teeth whitening product that simply blasts your teeth with LED light, which typically claims to speed up the process and achieve more intense results. However, most of the dentists we interviewed agreed that any gains from this treatment are short-lived or nonexistent. “Most studies show some difference detected by computers, but no visual difference detected by the human eye. For the studies conducted in actual patients (in vivo), most found no added benefit for light-activated systems,” Charles Sutera DDS, FAGD, a professional dentist at Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction in Waltham, MA told Insider.

Only the SmileDirectClub system in our guide uses this technology, but it is used in conjunction with a whitening gel and a mouthguard that may offer better control over your placement and avoid increased gum sensitivity in comparison to strips. 

Which teeth whitening products are most effective?

“Shopping for teeth whitening products is very simple.” Dr. Sutera explained. “There is only one active ingredient in all teeth whitening products: hydrogen peroxide. It’s the same agent whether it’s prescription use or over the counter. Any other ingredients in the product are inactive fillers needed to create the right consistency of the product.” If you see carbamide peroxide on your ingredient list, it’s just a derivative of hydrogen peroxide. 

“The key is to understand that whitening can be effective at any percentage, but what differs is the time of use. A high percentage of hydrogen peroxide typically is only kept on the teeth for 20 minutes maximum, while a lower percentage can be worn for 6 hours or overnight.” Dr. Sutera explains. “Much of the selection comes down to personal preference. If you have a tendency to develop tooth sensitivity or if you want to minimize the risks of irritating your gums, that’s when you’d select a lower concentration.”

A few warnings about teeth whitening kits

Peroxide is effective, but it comes with several warnings. Pregnant or nursing women may want to stop using peroxide-based whitening products. It also isn’t suitable for children under 14 years old. And, you should not use peroxide for longer than two weeks of daily use without the supervision of a dentist.

The FDA does not recommend using any whitening gels with a peroxide concentration of higher than 18%. Two of the kits we recommend use peroxide (Crest Whitestrips and SmileDirectClub) but they should be safe for most people.

Again, you should always consult with your dentist before starting a course of treatment. For instance, if your darkened teeth are due to the natural thinning of tooth enamel that comes with aging, whitening kits will not help you. Also, they cannot whiten fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, or caps.

Most importantly, Dr. Mohelicki says the biggest concern is wearing whitening kits for the right amount of time. “Over-the-counter options are inexpensive when compared to in-office whitening, but they offer no gum protection. With no gum protection, users can experience increased sensitivity and even burns in severe cases.” 

How to use teeth whitening kits effectively

Before using a teeth whitening kit, brush your teeth so your whitening agent can make contact with the surface of your teeth to improve efficacy, and so it doesn’t accidentally create an uneven white. “Any buildup of plaque or food debris will not allow for the whitening agent to contact the tooth and therefore not allow the whitening agent to do its job,” Dr. Campbell explained. “You could end up with a speckled, uneven whitened appearance.” 

And, after you’ve whitened, try to avoid food and drinks that stain your teeth.”I recommend that my patients stick to a ‘colorless diet’ just after whitening,” Dr. Handschuh told Business Insider. “Meaning, avoid highly-staining food and drink such as coffee, red wine, tea, sauces, etc.” But, if you really want to, he recommends using a straw to bypass your teeth a bit. 

As Dr. Sutera explained, whitening your teeth and then having a glass of red wine is like “two people in a canoe paddling in different directions. The whitening products open the pores and clean them out. If you have coffee, tea, or red wine within 72 hours of whitening your teeth, your teeth are more likely to absorb dark stains and adversely impact your whitening results.”

Does teeth-whitening damage your enamel?

“Most studies show that whitening does not damage enamel,” Dr. Sutera said. Though, there has been recent research that shows teeth whitening can affect proteins deeper in the tooth, though researchers are not currently sure if the damage is temporary or permanent, according to Dr. Sutera.

How can you prevent tooth sensitivity?

“It is common for the majority of people to experience increased tooth sensitivity after having teeth whitening done.” Dr. Mohelicki says. “However, for those who already have sensitive teeth, I recommend starting out by trying a whitening toothpaste. This takes significantly longer than trying an over-the-counter product or having teeth bleached in-office, but it can be significantly less painful.”

For whitening toothpaste, Dr. Sutera recommends patients with sensitive teeth use a toothpaste with potassium nitrate and fluoride and also use a fluoride mouth rinse. According to Dr. Sutera, potassium nitrate is the primary ingredient that helps with sensitive teeth, and fluoride a secondary option that has also been shown to help.  

If you have sensitive teeth and want to use a teeth whitening agent, you may just want to avoid higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. “The suggestion I would make is to use a lower concentration of whitening agent to get their desired whitening outcome while minimizing the risk of tooth sensitivity.” Dr. Campbell said. “Although anecdotal, I’ve found that brushing with Sensodyne toothpaste before and after whitening has helped me avoid sensitivity.”  

Why do you feel increased sensitivity after you whiten?

The bleaching temporarily weakens your enamel so the bleach can pass through it and further lift those stains, explained Dr. Mohelicki. “When [our enamel] is weakened during the bleaching treatment, many patients find that it can be hard to consume hot beverages, ice-cold beverages, or even eat certain foods. This typically wears off within 72 hours of ending treatment.” 

Our experts

For this piece, we consulted a handful of different dentists for multiple perspectives:

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Fauci says fully vaccinated people ‘might want to consider’ wearing a mask indoors as a precaution against the Delta variant

Dr. Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adjusts a face mask.

  • Fully vaccinated Americans may “want to consider” masks indoors, Dr. Fauci said.
  • Fauci said the Delta variant had an “extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person.”
  • More fully vaccinated Americans are catching COVID-19, albeit with milder, or no, symptoms.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’ top doctor, said fully vaccinated people may “want to consider” wearing masks indoors to help protect against the Delta coronavirus variant, which is spreading fast across the country.

Dr. Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, told CNBC on Wednesday that “if you want to go the extra mile of safety even though you’re vaccinated when you’re indoors, particularly in crowded places, you might want to consider wearing a mask.”

Fauci explained that wearing a mask indoors was “suggested” when a virus was spreading fast in a community.

The Delta variant is more infectious, and has mutations that help it avoid the body’s immune response. As it spreads in the US, more fully-vaccinated Americans are catching COVID-19 – albeit with milder, or no, symptoms.

“This virus is clearly different than the viruses and the variants that we’ve had experience with before. It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person,” Fauci said.

The Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that fully-vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks, except in certain situations, for example during flights.

States, workplaces and businesses can enforce their own mask rules.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

The public health body has come under pressure to review it’s guidance in recent weeks due to the emergence of the Delta variant, which is at least 50% more infectious than the formerly-dominant Alpha variant.

Delta now accounts for 83% of all new infections in the US. The nation recorded 52,032 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Jerome Adams, former Surgeon General, said Sunday that “the emerging data suggests CDC should be advising to vax it and mask it.” The World Health Organization said June 26 that fully-vaccinated people should wear masks in public settings.

More than 161 million Americans are fully-vaccinated, or 48% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some states have already urged fully-vaccinated citizens to put their masks back on.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said June 28 that it “strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure,” citing the more-infectious Delta variant.

Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, re-introduced mask mandates indoors for all workers on Wednesday.

Despite his views on masks, Fauci said that “the easiest and best and most effective way that we can prevent the emergence of a new variant and crush the already existing Delta variant is to get everyone vaccinated.”

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 88% effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms caused by the Delta variant, according to real-world UK data published Wednesday.

In the US, 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated people. “That is a statistic that speaks for itself,” Fauci said.

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Surgeon General doubles down on criticism of social media, says companies like Facebook need to ‘take responsibility’ for COVID-19 misinformation

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks on Fox News
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of social-media companies.

  • Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of tech companies.
  • In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Murthy said companies “need to take responsibility” for the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.
  • Murthy last week issued a 22-page advisory declaring misinformation a threat to public health.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy doubled down Sunday on his criticism of tech companies for their role in the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 and vaccines.

“What all of us have the right to is accurate information, so we can make the right decisions for us and our families. That is not the reality for far too many people,” Murthy told Fox News’ Chris Wallace during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

“They’re inundated with misinformation, and all of us – technology companies, individuals, health professionals, and government – have roles they can play in addressing and slowing the spread of misinformation,” he added.

Murthy on Thursday in a 22-page report issued his first advisory as the surgeon general. In the report, Murthy deemed misinformation “an urgent threat to public health” and called out tech companies for their role in hosting misinformation on their platforms, some of which casts doubt on the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.

Health experts say the spread of misinformation about the vaccines and COVID-19 has played a part in millions of people avoiding getting vaccinated— even as new variants of the disease are spreading.

On Friday, a day after the report, President Joe Biden told NBC News that social-media companies were “killing people” because of misinformation hosted on their platforms.

“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” Biden said.

A spokesperson for Facebook pushed back on the administration’s claims.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider and other outlets. “The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine.”

But Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his advisory.

“The reality is misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country, aided and abetted by technology platforms,” he said.

“There are pathways that tech companies can take to address misinformation that’s flowing on their side,” Murthy added. “I acknowledge they’re taking steps, and I appreciate that. But I’m also very clearly saying it is not enough. The intention is good but at the end of the day, it doesn’t save the life of someone who was misled by misinformation on these sites.”

He added: “I’m asking these companies to step up and take responsibility for what is happening on their sites. I’m asking them to look out for the people all across this country whose lives depend on having access to accurate information.”

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Austria investigating after 2 dozen US officials in Vienna report Havana Syndrome symptoms

Vienna Austria
Vienna, Austria.

  • Two dozen US officials in Vienna have reported Havana Syndrome symptoms.
  • The ailment refers to mysterious neurological symptoms affecting US officials around the globe.
  • Scientists have long suspected the symptoms are caused by microwave radiation attacks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Austria is investigating reports of US diplomats and officials experiencing “unexplained health incidents” similar to the Havana Syndrome.

According to The New Yorker, two dozen US officials in Vienna have reported mysterious symptoms since Joe Biden took office in January, making it the second biggest hotspot aside from Havana.

The Havana Syndrome was first recorded in 2016 and 2017 when US officials in the Cuban capital reported inexplicable symptoms including migraines, vertigo, hearing loss, and other neurological problems.

Since then more than 130 US officials around the world have reported similar symptoms, including in China, Russia, and the US.

Researchers have said that patients have brain injuries consistent with head trauma.

Scientists have long suspected that the affliction is caused by microwave radiation attacks, although this has not been proven.

According to The New Yorker, CIA director William Burns has privately referred to the incidents as “attacks.”

During the Cold War, Austria’s neutrality and location meant that several other countries used it as a base for espionage.

Vienna still has a large diplomatic presence and is home to several major UN agencies and a European security body, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

According to Reuters, this has long made Vienna “a hub for diplomatic activity and spying.”

Austria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was “working with the US authorities on jointly getting to the bottom of this.”

“We take these reports very seriously. The safety of the diplomats sent to Austria and their families is our top priority,” they said.

A US State Department spokesperson said they were “vigorously investigating” the incidents.

In June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a government-wide review investigating the causes of the mysterious ailment.

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India’s true COVID-19 death toll could be as high as 2.4 million, 6 times the official figures, experts warn

india covid mass cremation
A mass cremation of people who died due to COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, on April 22, 2021.

  • Experts believe that India’s COVID-19 death toll is far higher than official numbers suggest.
  • One study estimates that between 1.8m and 2.4m people in India have died from the virus.
  • Reports suggest that Indian officials have attempted to suppress the true figures.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

India’s true COVID-19 death toll could be 5 to 7 times more than the official figures suggest, according to The Economist.

Earlier this year, the country was ravaged by a disastrous second wave of COVID-19, with widespread reports of hospitals overflowing and oxygen shortages.

The Indian health ministry claims that since the start of the pandemic, a little over 411,000 people have lost their lives to the virus. Experts now believe that the official figure is a fraction of the true death toll.

A recent paper by Christopher Leffler of Virginia Commonwealth University in America, cited by The Economist, estimates that between 1.8 million and 2.4 million people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

If true, that would mean India has by far the highest COVID-19 mortalities worldwide. Currently, the US has the highest official death toll, with over 6o0,000 recorded deaths, according to the John Hopkins University.

Another study cited by The Economist, based on insurance claims in the Indian state of Telangana, suggests that the virus death toll could be six times more than the official figures suggest.

The Indian government has rejected these reports, claiming that they are not based on scientific evidence.

india covid second wave
A woman is consoled after her husband died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a mortuary of a COVID-19 hospital in Ahmedabad, India, April 15, 2021.

Yashwant Deshmukh, chairperson of CVoter polling group, told The Economist that the misleading official figures were “not about capacity, but intent.”

“And it’s not about the central government or a particular party. It is about data suppression at every level, no matter who is in charge.”

According to Foreign Policy, the way the Indian government records COVID-19 fatalities has obscured the true death toll.

The first problem, according to the magazine, is that India’s death registration system already under-reported deaths before the pandemic. This is partly because many Indians do not receive medical treatment before passing and many deaths are not medically certified.

But some problems in registering deaths are specific to the pandemic. India’s official guidance states that if a person dies without being tested for the virus or had tested negative but displayed symptoms, their death should be classified as a “suspected or probable COVID-19”.

But officials from several Indian states told Foreign Policy that only people who had tested positive for the virus and then died soon after in hospital, with a clear disease progression, were counted as official COVID-19 deaths.

The magazine added that most states in India had established “death audit committees,” which examine death certificates to determine what should be classed as a COVID-19 death. In some cases, the deaths of people with comorbidities were attributed to those conditions rather than to COVID-19.

India has now mostly overcome its second wave, reporting roughly 40,000 new cases a day, according to John Hopkins University. At its peak, India accounted for roughly half of the world’s COVID-19 cases, according to the World Health Organization.

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