Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Safety of mosquito repellents

Why do we need mosquito repellent?

Mosquito-borne illnesses are diseases that are spread by mosquitoes. The common examples are Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria and the recent outbreak of Zika. 

We can prevent the mosquito-borne illness by preventing mosquitoes from biting, as disease transmission occurs when the mosquito bites. 

There are many mosquito repellents in the market, some that we spray on clothes, some with roll-ons, clips and etc. But how safe are these products, especially to be used by young children and pregnant mothers? 

Let’s look into common mosquito repellents and it's ingredients. 

One of the key ingredients of mosquito repellents is Diethyltoluamide or DEET. DEET is present in varying concentration depending on the brand of the repellent.

DEET was originally developed by the American army to be used by their soldiers during wartime in the jungle. It’s a yellow oil and has a strong smell which is disliked by insects such as mosquitoes. Thus it effectively repels them. 

How safe is DEET? 

In a 2014 review by the US Environmental Protection Agency1, it was concluded that DEET does not cause any harm to adults, pregnant mothers or children when used properly. Proper usage means using it on clothes, or exposed skin and not applying it over wounded skin or under clothes. This is also supported by doctors from Harvard Medical Centre2

But products containing DEET are not advised to be used on children under the age of 2 months according to American Association of Pediatrics. Those older than that are safe to use repellents as long as the DEET concentration do not exceed 30%.3

What concentration of DEET to buy?

Depending on the brand of insect repellent, the concentration of DEET varies. The effectiveness of DEET is similar regardless of the concentration of the product. But the duration of action may differ. For example, 10% DEET will provide protection against mosquito bite for about 2 hours and 30% will do the work for 5 hours. 

It’s not recommended to use a product with DEET more than 30%.

Are there any natural alternatives to DEET?
There are many alternatives to DEET. The one with evidence behind it is lemon eucalyptus oil. Often used in natural mosquito repellent products, this oil is proven to be more than 95% effective against mosquitoes for 3 hours when compared to DEET.4
While there are many products in the pharmacy which uses lemon eucalyptus oil in their mosquito repellent, we can also prepare it at home. 

Just mix 1 part of lemon eucalyptus oil to 10 parts of sunflower oil and spray it or rub it on the skin.

Protecting our loved ones and ourselves against mosquito-borne illness is important especially now. 

Always remember to wear long sleeves shirts and pants, and use mosquito repellent when going out especially in the evening.

For further reading:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/deet
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27548647 
  3. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/summer-safety-tips.aspx 
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24772681

Friday, 2 September 2016

Mediterranean diet

What is Mediterranean diet?

 Mediterranean diet originates from Greece and Italy. The Mediterranean diet puts emphasis on eating plant-based food and making olive oil and canola oil as the main source of fat.
This diet recently rose to fame due to multiple types of research supporting its benefits against heart diseases, cancer, and many other health problems.


Does Mediterranean diet help in preventing heart attacks?

Following Mediterranean diet has positive effects on cardiovascular health. Just recently in European Society of Cardiology meeting, a group of researchers presented their research findings. They studied 1197 patients with heart problems and found that there was 34% lesser risk of dying from heart-related issues in those who strictly followed Mediterranean diet. 

Many other types of research also strongly support Mediterranean diet. For example, a research by Bihuniak et al focused on post-menopausal women. Post-menopausal women have reduced female hormones and thus are more susceptible to heart problems when their menopause hits. In this study after 12 weeks of following Mediterranean style diet, a significant increase in HDL (good cholesterol) and reduction in bad cholesterol “triglyceride” is observed. 

Will blood sugar level be in control with this diet?

Image |Pixabay
There are two types of diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes mellitus is seen among children and due to “autoimmune” disease which means our own body starts to kill off our insulin-producing cells. In a recent research, published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Mediterranean diet there is strong evidence to suggest Mediterranean diet improves blood glucose level in those with type 1 diabetes mellitus.

"drop in fasting blood glucose up to 2.2mmol/l (40mg/dl)"

Mediterranean diet is also proven to be effective against Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the one that commonly affect adults. In a review done by scientists from Italy, following Mediterranean diet “may help prevent type 2 diabetes” and also improved sugar control in those having diabetes. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet had a drop in fasting blood glucose up to 2.2mmol/l (40mg/dl). 
Does eating more olive oil, nuts and less meat prevent cancer?

There are many types of research claiming Mediterranean diet can prevent breast cancer and prevent relapses in those who had breast cancer. But most of the studies are small scaled and not strong in terms of evidence. For now, there is no enough evidence to say Mediterranean diet can prevent breast cancer, even though the evidence for prevention of heart diseases is strong.

How do I start eating the Mediterranean way?

Here are some simple steps to follow
  1. Increase intake of vegetables, beans, and whole grain. 
  2. Do not take red meat, substitute it with fish
  3. Use olive oil for cooking and salad dressing  
  4. Eat more fruits and use it for snack time
  5. Red wine is allowed but not more than two glasses per day
For some delicious recipes using Mediterranean diet, visit this website


For further reading

1.     European Cardiology on Mediterranean Diet

2.     Post-menopausal status and Mediterranean Diet

3.     Type 2 Diabetes and Mediterranean diet

4.     Type 1 Diabetes and Mediterranean diet