It's pretty common for glasses of water offered at restaurants to arrive with a citrus kick — but according to research, you may want to skip the lemon slice in your water the next time you go out. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Healt h back in 2007 and recently unearthed by ELLE suggests that lemon slices might bring bacteria into your drink: The researchers working on the study discovered that in a sample set of lemon slices drawn from 21 different restaurants, 70 percent contained some sort of bacteria or virus. And the number of sample locations means that the results are unlikely to be a fluke or coincidence.
What does this mean for you and I, the average restaurant- or bar-goer? While everyone is of course free to drink what they'd like, it's worth considering that your beloved lemons might not be the best idea. As researchers explained in their paper, "The microbes found on the lemon samples in our investigation all have the potential to cause infectious diseases at various body sites, although the likelihood was not determined in this study."
But that point also tells us some good news: It notes that while there is a chance of developing sickness from lemon slices, it is definitely not a guarantee that you'll experience any sort of negative side effects. It's merely something you should be aware of, especially if you happen to have a chronic health condition or an otherwise weak immune system that may make you more susceptible to bacteria or viruses.
So, what to do if you love a nice lemon in your water but you're worried about germ exposure? Laura Schocker at the Huffington Post suggests squeezing the lemon directly into your water (or soda, tea, etc.) yourself. While this doesn't necessarily eliminate your risk of exposure, it does limit it. As Schocker explains, you can always ask for your lemon to come whole and cut it yourself, or ask for it to arrive on a small side plate.
According to Cleveland Clinic, another easy way to keep yourself safe is to pay close attention to what happens behind the bar. Are the people making your drinks wearing gloves or using tongs? If so, according to Dr. Alan Taege, this should significantly lower your risk of contamination. If people are using their bare hands, however, it might be best to get your drink without your lemon slice.
If you're totally grossed out, though, just remember: Unless you have a health condition that impacts your immune system, our bodies are pretty good at protecting us. Germs are literally everywhere, including in restaurants. Think about how many germs are on a doorknob or a ketchup bottle, for example. It's always a good idea to educate yourself about your body and potential health risks and complications, but it's not necessary to entirely abstain from things like a little lemon juice for fear of infection.