Mosquito season is in full swing. A lucky few people seem immune to the bites of the pesky insects. Others can’t seem to avoid them.
New research explains mosquitoes’ apparent selectivity. According to an article in Smithsonian magazine, an estimated 20 percent of people are “especially delicious” to mosquitoes. (Shudder.) They are bitten more often than others.
Why? A number of factors are at play. Chief among them is blood type. “Not surprisingly — since, after all, mosquitoes bite us to harvest proteins from our blood — research shows that they find certain blood types more appetizing than others,” the article reports. Type O is at the top of the list. Additionally, about 85 percent of people secrete a chemical signal that indicates their blood type; these “secretors” are more prone to bites regardless of their blood type.
Another factor is the amount of carbon dioxide people emit when they breathe. Larger people exhale more of the gas, which may explain why adults tend to get bitten more often than children. This also means that obese people are more prone to getting bitten than average or underweight people, tall people more prone than short. Sweat, high body temperatures and skin bacteria also play a role. Pregnancy, which increases body temperature and carbon dioxide emission, may also increase the likelihood of bites.
And if you’re enjoying a beer at a barbecue, you may have made yourself a mosquito target. No one has been able to pinpoint why drinking beer makes people more attractive to mosquitoes. Some have theorized that the elevation in body temperature and the amount of ethanol in sweat may play a role, but neither theory has panned out. Still, it appears that even a 12-ounce bottle is enough to do the trick.
For many years, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was standard practice for women with pre-menopausal symptoms. But HRT fell out of favor after studies showed that women on these drugs were developing decreased vascular function and slight increases in the incidence of breast cancer, stroke and dementia.
According to “Moods, Emotions and Aging,” by Phyllis J. Bronson, a Colorado-based researcher who advises women with hormone-based mood disorders, this “set off a wave of misinformation.” Doctors began advising patients to stop HRT, and as a result, Bronson writes, “many women started feeling lousy without their hormones.”
Bronson attributes HRT’s side effects to the fact that commonly prescribed hormones are synthetic. She argues that women would respond better to bioidentical hormones, which are chemically identical to the hormones women make in their bodies. Such hormones, Bronson says, can improve a woman’s mood and sense of self without the negative consequences of synthetic versions.
Bronson builds her case using her own story and those of the women she advises who have had success with bioidentical hormone therapy. She breaks down what happens to various hormones as women age, and how they can affect sexuality, emotional well-being and overall health, particularly age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Still, not all doctors agree with this, and Bronson advises women to exercise caution. “Proper use of real hormones, those that mimic what is native to us as women, can help ease the transitions of life and aging by making women feel more optimistic and vital,” she writes, but using them “as part of a quest for the ‘fountain of youth’ is not good medical practice.”