- Two scientific studies conclude mosquitoes prevent children and adults exercising outside in certain parts of the US in summertime
- American scientists from Brandeis University and Rutgers University, believe the effective control of mosquitoes could help decrease childhood obesity
- Children and adults spent more time – an extra two hours a week – exercising outdoors when the mosquitoes were kept under control
A small study suggests mosquitoes contribute to the problem of childhood obesity in parts of the United States
Mosquitoes contribute to the problem of childhood obesity in some parts of the United States, a small study suggests.
Researchers from Brandeis University in Massachusetts led an experimental study to investigate whether the amount of time children spent playing outside varied depending on whether the mosquito population was controlled or not.
They found that children spent more time outside in areas with effective abatement compared to those with lots of mosquitoes to conclude effective control of mosquitoes could play a role in cutting the rate of childhood obesity.
The scientists asked 38 children from Cliffwood Beach and Union Beach between 2009 and 2012 to log the time they spent outside, when treatment to kill mosquitoes was alternated between the two places to see if there was a correlation.
John Worobey, lead author of the paper published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association admitted the study was limited because of the small number of participants and children’s self-reporting, but believes the results were clear.
Children living in areas where effective action was taken to cull the mosquito population spent more time exercising outside.
He said: ‘Because obesity is difficult to treat, public health efforts need to be directed toward prevention, which could include mosquito abatement since physical activity protects against obesity.’
The study also found that 75 per cent of the local population said they would spend more time outside if it wasn’t for mosquitoes and households spent $86 a year on their own mosquito controls, indicating that they take the problem seriously.
Distribution of Asian Tiger mosquitoes in the United States, by county, researched in 2000. The mosquitoes invaded 30 states in 1985 and are believed to have hitched a ride on shipments of car tyres from Japan
Scientists said people spent an average of an extra two hours a week exercising in the outdoors when the mosquitoes were kept under control.
The study is one of many seeking to quantify just how much misery mosquitoes cause.
A project by scientists at Rutgers University focused on the impact of the Asian Tiger mosquito – a particularly blood-thirsty species that has colonised half of the US since 1985.
They said that at times the mosquitoes were so plentiful they kept children indoors and passive during the summer months.
While the cost of pest control is considerable, Dina Fonseca, a population geneticist at the university said the cost of not controlling them could be childhood obesity.
The $3.8 million study into Tiger Mosquito invasions in Trenton shows the pests negatively affect people’s quality of life.
Because obesity is difficult to treat, public health efforts need to be directed toward prevention, which could include mosquito abatement since physical activity protects against obesity,’ said Mr Worobey People spent an average of an extra two hours a week when mosquitoes were kept under control
Asian Tiger mosquitoes invaded 30 states in 1985 and are believed to have hitched a ride on shipments of car tyres from Japan.
While they are not thought to transmit serious diseases in the US, they spread dengue and the chikungunya virus in the hotter climates of South East Asia.
Scientists are examining the mosquitoes as the US Department of Agriculture, which is part funding the Rutgers study, wants to work out the best way of controlling the pests before they start carrying disease as the US climate warms up.
Professor Randy Gaugler, the project organiser, told USA Today: ‘Mosquito control in urban settings came first, and the children’s physical activity idea was birthed from that.’