You may have seen Scott Napper's name in the news this week. He's the biochemist at the University of Saskatchewan who posed the theory that eating your boogers might actually be a good thing for you to do. It's a way, Napper says, to give your body a sample of all the pathogens in the surrounding environment, which is something our bodies don't necessarily get—at least not like they used do, when things weren't so clean. (It's called the Hygiene Hypothesis.)
The next step for Napper, who says the sugary taste (?) of boogers might support his theory, would be to find funding—and volunteers!—in order to do some research on the subject. Yesterday, the Booger Man answered a few of my questions over email.
"There are lots of things we do in terms of personal hygiene that we still prefer to do with some privacy."
Prior to your idea, what was the thinking been behind why we pick our noses?
Good question. I think a lot of it would probably depend on the individual. Probably important to separate those who pick their noses (which is probably about everyone) and those who pick their noses and eat it.
But you say it could hold a different advantage for us?
The hypothesis is that by consuming the boogers you can teach the immune system about the various agents that get trapped in the mucus, i.e. what is present in the environment.
What led to this idea?
A weird sense of humor and too much coffee!
You say that boogers taste like sugar. My, um, “sources” tell me that sugary is the last way they'd describe a booger.
Interesting. I wonder if different people have different tastes to their boogers. I guess the only way to find that out would be to sample some from someone else's nose. Any volunteers?
Will this lead to some kind of widespread social acceptance? People picking their noses in church, in boardrooms, at the opera, etc.
I kind of doubt it. There are lots of things we do in terms of personal hygiene that we still prefer to do with some privacy.
What is your next step with the research?
To test whether individuals who consume their boogers develop stronger immune responses against molecules administered into their noses.