Philematology: Kissing And Telling In The Lab

17. January 2017

At Christmas and on New Year's Eve, the frequency of kissing is particularly high. Kissing not only activates our reward system, it also produces long-lasting changes in the bacterial flora of the partner. Caution: Health risks or even cases of death may lurk behind hickeys.

The kiss under the mistletoe is a fabulous thing, and New Year’s Eve is also worth mentioning. On the dot of midnight smooching, snogging and smacking take place. Whoever kisses their partner at the new year’s moment of inception will at least be together with that person for another year, so it is said. Whoever hears the ringing in of the new year unkissed, a myth says, will be punished over the following year with an absence of kisses. The kiss is therefore a must.

There are also kiss rejectors

What is natural for Europeans and several other ethnic groups is not practised at all in other cultures. Anthropologists investigated among 168 ethnic groups on every continent the kiss within culture. In 77 groups amorous kissing occurs, in 91 groups this behaviour is totally absent. The researchers defined the romantic-intimate kiss as a lip-to-lip contact, which may be of long duration but is not necessarily so.

While in North America a little more than half of the living cultures there practice this kiss, there are only four such groups out of 21 cultural groups in South America. In Europe, the kiss is common practice in seven of ten cultures studied.

Kissology to go

A person at 70 years of age has on average spent more than 76 days kissing. 75 percent of people while kissing tend to bow their heads to the right. Kissing is a muscular and neurological challenge. All 34 facial muscles and 112 more are needed to produce the posture. These and other results were delivered among others by philematologist Ingelore Ebberfeld. Philematology is the scientific study of kissing.

Kissing: pure neuropharmacology

Viewed anatomically, a kiss is just the meeting of the upper ends of two digestive tracts. In almost all areas of sciences however kissing plays a particular role. With a “doctor kiss” the supervising doctor admits the PhD student after the examination into a venerable circle. Redemption kisses make princes out of frogs. Kissing the ring of the Pope is a sign of humility and reverence.

Biochemically speaking a great deal happens while kissing: dopamine, serotonin, cortisol, oxytocin and endorphins are released, activating our reward system.

The kiss as bacterial exchange

Kissing leads not only to a transmitter thunderstorm, but also permanently alters the bacterial flora of the partner. The Dutch microbiologist Remco Kort found out that kissing is an effective way to transfer 80 million bacteria in a very short time.

“Intimate kissing is a purely human behaviour”, says Kort. “It strengthens the bond and also thereto leads to close partners having a very similar oral flora”.

Spoon licking and children kisses as tooth killer?

One of the orally transmitted germs is Streptococcus mutans. It is among other things responsible for caries being able to be transmitted through kissing. In one study Virtanen et al warn against mothers licking the spoon of infants. This leads to bacterial flora being changed in the child for a long time and may promote the risk of tooth decay. This is a somewhat strange warning, because kissing by the mother can also transfer their germs on to the child and harm oral health. And refraining from kissing and petting is – for mother, father and child – no seriously viable option.

Kiss trauma can kill

However kiss caries is harmless compared to life-threatening kiss traumas. Stroke, carotid dissection and death – were the kiss a medicine, these events would have to be detailed under the heading “side effects in some cases”.

A 17-year-old man died a few hours after the formation of smooching marks in the carotid triangle region. Tissue anamolies, a clot formation caused by sucking trauma, an injury of the carotid – these are the discussed causes of death.

As early as 2010 a casualty due to a fatal hickey appeared in a medical journal in New Zealand. A case was reported of a 44-year old woman who suffered a stroke under approximately comparable circumstances.

Nut – Kiss – End

There are also case reports documented in which kisses have led to anaphylactic reactions with a fatal outcome. A man was eating a sandwich with peanut butter and kissed his girlfriend, who died of an allergic shock. The amount of allergen that was enough to lead to this must have been negligibly small. The man had brushed his teeth after eating and rinsed his mouth. From a legal point of view it is certainly not the kiss which was guilty, but rather it was the peanut.

Kissing protects against allergies

Enough negative stories: kissing can also be healthy. One half of the ig Nobel Prize in Medicine (ig being a word play: ignoble) went to Hajime Kimata from Japan for several studies investigating the effect of intensive kissing in association with allergies.

30 Patients with allergic rhinitis and the same number with atopic dermatitis smooched with their partners for half an hour. Before and afterwards their levels of histamine, NGF (nerve growth factor), BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor ), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and neurotrophin-4 (NT-4) were measured. Numerous allergenic parameters were significantly lowered by kissing.

The second half of the alternative Nobel Prize also went to kiss researchers. A Slovak research group led by Jaroslava Durdiakov examined how long male DNA remains detectable in a woman’s mouth, after they both kissed intensely. Even after one hour the foreign DNA was still detectable. This was evaluated by the researchers to be significant because in this way DNA can be identified even several hours after an act of sexual violence by the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, the Ig Nobel Prize was awarded to Harvard University in Boston. The not so infrequently defamed “anti Nobel Prize” award honours scientists who encourage people first to laugh and then to think.

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Anthony Murawski
Anthony Murawski

I have never heard of the Ig Nobel Prize. I have to admit that I don’t have any sense of why the Ig Nobel Prize is “not so infrequently defamed,” nor what it means to “encourage people first to laugh and then to think.” How can laughing precede thought? Please forgive me for my ignorance. I will use a search engine to find out more about it.

#1 |

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