Vitamin B-1 may repel mosquitoes -- and people

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

September 16, 2001|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. Years ago my father heard that large doses of B vitamins (I don't remember which ones) would repel mosquitoes. Apparently it changed the smell of his skin, because my mother commented that he smelled so bad that she wouldn't bite him, either!

A. Taking large doses of vitamin B-1 (thiamin) has long been recommended as a way to repel mosquitoes. The scientific evidence to support this practice is sparse.

We heard from one European-trained physician, however, who learned this approach in medical school. He prescribed it for many patients in the tropics, all of whom found it helpful. He noted that it makes perspiration smell a bit like yeast, but that the smell drives the mosquitoes away.

Q. You scared me when I read that very low cholesterol is bad for you. All these years my doctors have been congratulating me about a cholesterol level that hovers between 110 and 120.

I didn't know what to do to raise my cholesterol since I am a strict vegetarian. Then I remembered that some people complained that the glucosamine and chondroitin they took for arthritis pain made their cholesterol go up.

I started taking this stuff (I do have some sore joints), and sure enough, my cholesterol has risen to 150.

A. The idea that very low cholesterol might be a health hazard is still controversial. The Honolulu Heart Program (Lancet, Aug. 4) followed 3,500 Japanese-American men born between 1900 and 1919. Their total cholesterol levels were measured in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, when they were elderly. The scientists kept track of the survivors and found, to their surprise, that the men with the lowest cholesterol levels had the highest risk of dying over the next several years.

We spoke with the lead investigator, Dr. Irwin Schatz, who admitted that physicians don't know quite what to make of this finding. At this point, he does not recommend that patients with low cholesterol try to increase it. Your approach seems reasonable, however, especially if the glucosamine and chondroitin eases your joint pain.

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