Behind the numbers: Making out can be a medical marvel

Article published on Feb. 15, 2016
Article published on Feb. 15, 2016

Every centimetre of our body is constantly covered with millions of microbes; nowhere more so than in our slimy mouth cavities, where 700 species of bacteria dance a merry jig. A seemingly innocuous smooch can prove enough to transfer a whole heap of these little helpers: around 40,000 delicious bacteria. Luckily, more often than not when kissing, our minds tend to wander elsewhere…

Whether passionate or tender, with too much tooth or too much tongue, kisses can be electrifying, emboldening, and good for the health. Each lip service boosts our immune system, transferring 40,000 parasites – including 250 types of bacteria, 0.7 grams of albumin, 0.45 grams of fat and 0.18 grams of other organic substances – right into the mouth of our partner. The number of white blood cells and other defences in the bloodstream also increase. Antibody production is in full swing. Those fizzy little vitamin tablets, sugary pills and other malarkey can pack their bags and jump ship.

If the tongue comes into play, bacteria become truly unstoppable. In just 10 seconds of tongue-on-tongue action, 80 million germs make the leap from one mouth to the other. Researchers from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research led an experiment in 2014 with 21 couples and have consequently proven this great bacterial migration.

Valentine’s Day fans are now probably not so comfortable when thinking back to the weekend’s activities. Some "alone time" for two suddenly seems a little less alone. But from a medical point of view, a passionate kiss can be a real medical marvel: myocardium is strengthened, body temperature rises, adrenaline and dopamine ease your pain, burning calories while they do so to boot.

The current world record for the longest kiss is 58 hours, 38 minutes and 58 seconds. Granted, this kind of snogging is a little overzealous and not recommended for your everyday routine, but it’s still a more exciting (and cheaper) alternative to conventional disease prevention. 


This article is part of our Behind the Numbers series, illustrating newsworthy stats with artistic design and a brief analysis.