Could picking your nose be GOOD for you? One scientist believes it could boost your immune system

  • Canadian academic Scott Napper wants his students to investigate the health benefits of the taboo habit
  • Professor thinks that eating the pickings could help boost human immune system function

Rachel Reilly

07:08 EST, 29 April 2013


09:10 EST, 29 April 2013

A Canadian academic is encouraging his students to pick their noses in a bid to see if the habit has any health benefits.

Professor Scott Napper is requesting his pupils to investigate the possible health benefits of eating their mucous in a bid to understand the human immune system better.

He believes that eating mucous in the nose may boost the immune system by introducing small and harmless amounts of germs back into the body.

His theory follows others that suggest improved hygiene has led to an increase in allergies and auto-immune disorders.

Getting stuck in: Parents discourage their children from picking their nose but it could be good for their health, claims one expert

Getting stuck in: Parents discourage their children from picking their nose but it could be good for their health, claims one expert

His proposed study involves splitting his class into two. Half will eat their pickings whilst other will not engage in the antisocial behaviour.

They will then observe how the immune system responds to the new habit.

Professor Napper said: ‘All you would need is a group of volunteers. You would put some sort of molecule in all their noses, and for half of the group they would go about their normal business and for the other half of the group, they would pick their nose and eat it.’

‘Then you could look for immune responses against that molecule and if they’re higher in the booger-eaters, then that would validate the idea.’

Professor Napper added that the greatest value of the snot-eating question is that, when he brings it up with his first-year science students they are instantly engaged in the class.

‘Get the student to think, rather than just sitting there taking down notes,’ Napper said. ‘[Science] should be about the exchange of ideas.’

But the associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan is a firm believer in the powers of picking your nose.

He said: ‘Nature pushes us to do different things because it is to our advantage to have certain behaviours, to consume different types of foods.

Other bad habits such as nail biting may also help boost the immune system

Other bad habits such as nail biting may also help boost the immune system

‘So maybe when you have an urge like this to pick your nose and eat it, you should just go with nature.’

‘From an evolutionary perspective, we evolved under very dirty conditions and maybe this desire to keep our environment and our behaviours sterile isn’t actually working to our advantage,’ he told CBC News.

Experts such as Dr Hilary Longhurst, consultant immunologist from the Bart’s NHS Trust, believe a similar thing occurs when we bite our nails.

‘Unless your hands are filthy, the bugs we encounter when biting our nails could boost our immune system,’ she said.

The immune system works by developing a ‘memory’ and making a note of how to fight each bug it has ever encountered. 

When a bug is encountered a second time, the immune system reaches into its ‘memory’ and releases weapons — called memory lymphocytes — that know how to kill it. 

The comments below have not been moderated.

My mother did not over-clean the house, although it certainly was clean. I think this meant we all had a good immune system growing up. How do you think the human race managed to get from its inception to the present day? Victorian sewage systems in the UK saw a huge improvement in the nation’s health, as did weekly collections of waste so that the rat population was kept down. The other factor is that we know to wash our hands frequently, but not obsessively of course.


EXETER, United Kingdom,
29/4/2013 16:08

I like my burgers grilled.


selma, United States,
29/4/2013 16:07

yummy. Does the benefit increase if u eat other peoples bogies?


29/4/2013 16:06

Ha ha, loving the comments, i must have the most disgusting 2 yr old, as he’s just found his nose, and just comes up to you, or anyone for that matter, and wipes his finger on your clothes!! Urhhh!! But you gota love him! lol :0)


29/4/2013 16:04

What’s the difference between “Bogie’s and Brussel Sprouts” ?.

You can’t get your Kids to eat Brussel Sprouts.


29/4/2013 16:03

It’s great on toast.

Michael Smith

29/4/2013 15:43

I’ve heard that this habit is motivated by a Zinc deficiency. Sounds possible to me.


France, France,
29/4/2013 15:42

Very, very old news, I was told this when I was 7, I’m 54 now.

Lord Lucan

Surrey, United Kingdom,
29/4/2013 15:41

Home cooking at your fingertips… I think I’ll pass on this one !


London, United Kingdom,
29/4/2013 15:38

My 2 yr old will live to be 100 easily if this is true!!


nj- USA,
29/4/2013 15:38

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

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