The Truth About the “5-Second Rule”

cold and flu Bethlehem PAYou’ve probably heard of the “five-second rule”. That’s the tongue-in-cheek saying some kids and young adults use when they accidentally drop a piece of food on the floor, but pick it up and eat it anyway. According to the “rule”, food isn’t likely to become significantly contaminated with bacteria if it remains on the floor less than five seconds. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves when we quickly grab that fallen potato chip before the cat gets it, brush it off, and stick in in our mouths (hopefully without anyone noticing). Most of us probably suspect this isn’t a great idea while we’re doing it, but is there actually any evidence to support the five-second rule?

Well, for those who admit to having done this once or twice in their lives (you know who you are…), you can feel a little bit better about it, because there is some research that suggests the five-second rule might be valid.

Can we be sure bacteria moves slow enough or won’t grab on?

Science has actually been studying the five-second rule for some time. In 2003, Dr. Jillian Clarke (then an intern and now a Ph.D.) analyzed the floors of the labs, dormitories, and cafeterias of the university she was attending.  She discovered that far fewer bacteria were found than expected, possibly because most of the surfaces were dry; thus, did not encourage bacterial growth. Dr. Clarke also found that very few “test foods” were significantly contaminated by E. coli bacteria from brief exposure to a contaminated surface.

A more recent study conducted at Aston University in Great Britain confirms her findings. The research team, led by Professor Anthony Hilton, studied a number of different floor surfaces and locations (carpeted floors, laminated floors, and tiles) with a variety of foods (toast, pasta, cookies, and sticky candy) to see how much E. coli and Staphylococcus bacteria they picked-up when dropped on these floors.

There were differences in the floor surface itself, with carpeted floors being “safer” in terms of contamination than tile floors. Hilton said, “We have found evidence that bacteria transferring to food dropped on indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor with carpet; therefore, actually posing the lowest risk of a bacterial transfer.”

Does 5 seconds make the difference?

Unsurprisingly, as the five-second rule implies, time is a factor. Research did find that the longer the food stayed in contact with the floor surface, the more likely it was that bacterial contamination would occur. And the moister the food, the more likely it was to pick up bacteria.

Another major factor to be considered is the location of the food drop. That is, certain locations are dirtier than others, and thus more likely to result in bacterial contamination, even if you beat the five-second buzzer. Bathrooms are, not surprisingly, high risk – don’t even think of employing the five-second rule there. Your kitchen floors, especially if you cook a lot of chicken, might be more likely a source of salmonella and other bacteria than, say, your living room or dining room. And among the dirtiest surfaces they tested were the dining tables in restaurants, because they have been “wiped clean” with cloths that were rarely changed and washed themselves.

Nourishing a body for strong bacterial resistance

For years, individuals using chiropractic care have reported health improvements from spinal adjustments performed by chiropractors. Today, there is a growing body of scientific research to support this contention. One research paper in particularreviewed literature on the connections between the nervous and the immune system, exploring the effect chiropractic adjustments may have had on neuroimmune function (Cohn, 2008). The results determined there appears to be numerous modes of communication between the nerves and the immune system. It also appears, not only in theory, but in practice, that chiropractic adjustments may have a beneficial effect on the functioning of both the nervous and the immune system.

What to do to thwart persistent and harmful bacteria infections:

  1. Use your own common sense when tempted to invoke the five-second rule. If you accidentally drop a piece of food, take one second of your five noticing the location you’re in and another second to determine the nature of the surface the food fell on. Then you’ve still got three seconds left to decide whether to pick it up and eat it or not
  2. Eat whole foods full of leafy greens and colorful vegetables, fruits (including the white foods as in garlic and onions), and lean meats and good fats (seeds, nuts, oily fish) to support your ready-to-heal body and immune system.
  3. Get chiropractic checkups regularly to balance your body, create a sense of nervous system, muscle and immune system “calmness” through adjustments.

Come in for a complimentary “Health Scan” to learn if other symptoms and sicknesses you have may be helped with chiropractic care. I will show you what’s going on with your body and how it might be affecting your nervous system or organs.

Cohn, A., 2008, Chiropractic and the Neuroimmune Connection, Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research, p. 1-5

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