The claim: Listerine can ward off a swarm of mosquitoes
Facts: Listerine may have its place in the medicine cabinet, but to some resourceful outdoors types, it has a second life.
Pour a couple of ounces in a spray bottle, the story goes, spritz it in the air at the next barbecue, and—presto!—you have a cheap and pleasant-smelling mosquito barrier.
A primary ingredient in Listerine and several other commercial mouthwashes is eucalyptol, a natural oil that is also an active ingredient in botanical repellents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oil of lemon eucalyptus is one of the most effective mosquito repellents, along with the chemicals DEET and picaridin.
Several studies, including one by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, have found that eucalyptus-based repellents can be extremely effective, and nontoxic to humans. But they often contain the compound in concentrations as high as 75%; the concentration in mouthwash is usually below 1%. Mouthwashes also contain water and alcohol, so they tend to evaporate quickly. Commercial repellents, on the other hand, are designed to last for hours.
The bottom line: Listerine might discourage buzzing mosquitoes—but not for long.
The claim: beware of drink mixers based on diet soda
Facts: Usually it is solely the liquor component of a cocktail—not the mixer—that determines its inebriating effects. But some people contend the artificial sweeteners in diet soda speed the absorption of alcohol.
Odd, perhaps, but research suggests it’s true. In a 2006 study, a team of scientists recruited healthy subjects and had them consume vodka cocktails. On some occasions, it was a 20-ounce drink mixed with a sugar-sweetened beverage, and on others it was a nearly identical drink mixed instead with a diet beverage.
In the diet-mixer conditions, the alcohol entered the subjects’ bloodstream about 15 minutes faster, and their blood-alcohol concentration was higher, peaking at 0.05%, compared with 0.03% with the regular mixer.
One theory is that the alcohol is absorbed more quickly because there is no sugar to slow it down, which would mean that club soda would have a similar effect. A second study in 2007 also showed that alcohol was absorbed far more quickly when mixed with carbonated beverages than with flat mixers, possibly because of the effervescence. As a result, experts say, it’s best to choose flat mixers like orange or cranberry juice over diet sodas or juices.
The bottom line: Compared with sugar-sweetened drinks, artificial sweeteners can speed inebriation. (Anahad O’Connor)
©2008/The New York Times