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Buzz Off! Foods to Avoid and Eat for Mosquito-Free Living

Covered in bites? It's mainly because of your diet.

There is nothing worse than a swarm of mosquitoes ruining a day outside. These bloodthirsty insects are not only itchy and irritating, but they also carry a variety of diseases.

While applying bug spray is the best way to reduce the risk of being bitten, what you eat may play a part in how attractive you are to mosquitoes.

Here is what research and an entomologist recommend for preventing mosquito bites in the first place.

In the first place, what attracts mosquitoes?

Humans are a target for mosquitoes for several reasons. At the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, Eva Buckner, Ph.D., assistant professor and state extension specialist, says mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide we exhale, body heat, and chemicals on our skin and in our sweat and breath.


A mosquito smells people, and scent is one of the main senses mosquitoes use to find food, Buckner says. Female mosquitoes feed on blood, whereas males eat nectar only.

According to Buckner, mosquitoes have sensory hairs primarily on their antennae and mouth parts. When these hairs detect an odor, a chemical signal is sent to their brains.

You will attract mosquitoes with anything sweet (probably because it suggests nectar is nearby), along with your body odor and certain chemicals. Moreover, sweat containing higher levels of uric acid, lactic acid, and ammonia acid may attract mosquitoes as well. In addition, research suggests that mosquitoes are more attracted to people with type O blood than other types.

Is there anything you should avoid eating?

This is important to get out of the way upfront: Although there have been studies on mosquitoes and food, they are not robust. In other words, more work needs to be done here. However, research has found a link between the following foods (and drinks) and mosquito attraction.

Cheeses that smell bad

Mosquitoes are attracted to carboxylic acids produced by bacteria on our skin, but carboxylic acids include butyric acid, a compound found in stinky cheeses like Limburger.


Desserts and sweet foods

According to Buckner, eating food with a sweet floral scent could potentially attract mosquitoes. This is because mosquitoes are drawn to certain floral scents produced by nectar-producing plants. Therefore, if there is an overlap in the volatiles given off by these plants and the sweet floral scent of your food, a mosquito could be attracted to both you and your meal.

Remember, this also applies to drinks that have a floral scent or ingredient, meaning you may unknowingly bring mosquitoes around when consuming your favorite beverage.

The banana

A recent study examined the attractiveness of people after eating bananas and grapes with two species of mosquitoes, and found that the insects were drawn to the banana group. But this is just one study and it only tested two types of mosquitoes. (Buckner points out that there are more than 3,000 species worldwide.)

Also read: Benefits of eating banana on empty stomach

The beer

In two studies, alcohol consumption increases the attraction of mosquitoes to people. Researchers were also unable to pinpoint why the beer might have made people seem tastier to mosquitoes since they examined only one type of mosquito out of 3,000. “The authors were only able to hypothesize that drinking beer altered some chemical released by the breath or the skin,” Buckner says.

Mosquito-repellent foods to eat

Although there is limited evidence that eating certain foods will keep mosquitoes away, it doesn’t hurt to try to give yourself a leg up in mosquito bite prevention.

Sweet basil, sage, and rosemary foods

In a study on mosquitoes and human scent, scientists found that people smelling high concentrations of eucalyptol turned off mosquitoes. According to the researchers, the high concentration of eucalyptol was likely due to the diet of the person. Eucalyptol is an aromatic compound found in sweet basil, sage, rosemary, and cardamom.


Onion or garlic-based foods

It has been proven that garlic and onions contain a compound called allicin, which can lower the risk of contracting malaria, a serious infection spread by mosquito bites. However, it isn’t clear how much garlic and onions you would need to consume to get this effect.

Citrus grapefruit

This unique aroma is attributed to a compound called nootkatone found in grapefruits. According to one study, nootkatone repels mosquitoes at a rate comparable to DEET or picaridin, which are commonly used in bug repellants. Nootkatone may discourage mosquitoes while you eat grapefruit, even though the study focused on nootkatone applied to the skin.

Serious diseases caused by mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are not just annoying insects – they can also be carriers of deadly diseases. Malaria, transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, affects more than 10 Lakh people worldwide each year. This disease can cause fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms and if left untreated, it can be fatal.

Dengue fever is another serious illness spread by mosquitoes, specifically the Aedes species. Symptoms include severe headache, joint pain, and rashes. In a few cases, dengue fever can progress to a life-threatening condition called dengue hemorrhagic fever.

The Zika virus gained global attention for its link to birth defects in babies born to infected mothers. Spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, Zika can also lead to neurological complications in adults.

West Nile virus is yet another health threat carried by mosquitoes. While many infected individuals show no symptoms, others may experience fever, body aches, or more severe issues like encephalitis or meningitis.

In a nutshell

If you want to hedge your bets with keeping mosquitoes away, Buckner says it’s best to follow tried and true strategies like wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and using insect repellants approved by the EPA. In addition, you should add basil, grapefruit, and garlic to your diet if you want to take it to the next level.

Also read: 6 foods that raise cancer and 6 that lowers it



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