In January, Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly not only made headlines for their engagement — but for peculiar coda Fox included on her Instagram announcement. “I said yes,” Fox wrote. “…and then we drank each other’s blood.”
It was a strange way to end an engagement announcement, but celebrities say and do peculiar things. Fast forward to this week, Fox did an interview with Glamour UK confirming that the blood drinking thing wasn’t a joke. Instead, it turns out, she and her fiancé actually do drink each other’s blood.
“Yeah. So, I guess to drink each other’s blood might mislead people or people are imagining us with goblets and we’re like ‘Game of Thrones,’ drinking each other’s blood,” Fox said. “It’s just a few drops, but yes, we do consume each other’s blood on occasion for ritual purposes only.”
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While this sounds very vampiric, the concept of blood drinking — and sometimes blood hoarding — appears recurrently in pop culture history. Who can forget Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton making headlines for wearing necklaces with each other’s blood in them? There is such a thing as a “real vampire” community that lives in New Orleans, according to an investigation by The Conversation, where people allegedly need to consume each other’s blood to “feel healthy.”
So, is drinking another person’s blood safe? Blood is an essential part of how our bodies function. Sure, blood is rich in iron, but ask any doctor if a blood transfusion via mouth is safe, and the answer is “no,” this isn’t something you want to try at home.
“This is definitely not advised,” Dr. Leo Nissola, an immunotherapy scientist and cancer researcher, told Salon. “There is absolutely no reason why you would want to be consuming human blood — especially given all the given all the diseases out there right now.”
Nissola said, in his opinion, the number one concern about drinking another person’s blood is that a person might now know what they have in terms of viruses, bacteria or blood-borne pathogens.
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“Drinking someone else’s blood that hasn’t been screened or that hasn’t been tested for sexually transmitted disease, and other illnesses, can potentially put you at risk,” Nissola said.
Dr. Shikha Jain, an hematology and oncology physician at the University of Illinois–Chicago, agreed.
“There are a lot of reasons why it’s not safe to drink other people’s blood, especially individuals you don’t know, they may be blood-borne, they might have viruses or other infections that might put you at risk,” Jain said. “There are different infectious diseases that can be transmitted through bodily fluids.”
“If one of them has an infection, drinking the blood of that person would be dangerous,” Dr. Andrew I. Schafer says. “Otherwise I don’t see any major risk, although it’s certainly a very unnatural practice.”
Indeed, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV are all diseases that could be contracted through ingesting infected blood. But what if a partner has been screened for such diseases?
“If one of them has an infection, drinking the blood of that person would be dangerous,” Dr. Andrew I. Schafer, a professor of medicine in Hematology-Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine, told Salon via email. “Otherwise I don’t see any major risk, although it’s certainly a very unnatural practice.”
However, Nissola added there’s “another layer” to this that extends beyond the point of concern for disease. Specifically, ingesting human blood — especially large amounts of it — can irritate the digestive system, and harm a person’s stomach lining.
“It can cause your stomach lining to decay, it can cause you to vomit. It can cause bleeding at times, even bleeding itself, so you’d be losing blood that way,” Nissola said, adding that a dangerous immune reaction can occur, too. “The most concerning part for me as an immunologist would be that the immune reaction, hemolytic transfusion reactions (HTR) can occur.”
HTR can occur in blood transfusions when a person’s red blood cells are incompatible, and can be life-threatening.
Jain added there’s a condition called hemochromatosis, which is also a concern.
“Where if you ingest too much of it, you can actually impact your liver function — it can damage your liver, it can result in a buildup of fluid in your lungs, and it can actually cause dehydration because you’re drinking blood as opposed to things like water,” Jain said. “It can actually increase your risk of heart disease, which is the effect of hemochromatosis or iron overload, and it can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, chronic fatigue, itchy skin, leg swelling.”
“I would say that [drinking blood] is not going to give you any benefit,” Jain concluded.
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