Why do people like spicy food?

Once in a while, everyone gets that craving for that hot chili sauce or a spiced-up curry. The relationship between humans and spices is a fiery story, and haven’t you ever wondered why do we like spicy food? In the article, we’ll dive deeper into the history of spice consumption to answer this question. We will also inquire whether it can be dangerous and how we measure the level of hotness. But first, let’s look at the biological process that sets your mouth on fire.

Why do people like spicy food?

During our research on why do people like spicy food we focused on the following questions:

  • What makes spicy food taste spicy and delicious?
  • Can spice be dangerous?
  • How do we measure spices and what are the hottest peppers in the world?
  • Why do we like spicy food actually?

What Nerdish has found about why people like spicy food:

As spicy food fills your mouth, the specific molecule capsaicin binds to TRVP1 receptors, which transmit the signal to the brain. The primary function of these receptors is to register the temperature—that’s why we perceive the food as hot and burning.

Cells in other parts of your body can also have these receptors. Thus, in high concentration, capsaicin can be felt in other sensitive areas—like skin or eyes.

Exposure to capsaicin at an early age can train one’s tolerance to spice levels in their life.

If you suddenly find your food too hot, drink milk—it helps break the molecular bonds of capsaicin. On the other hand, water can make things worse.

In theory, spicy food can cause critical harm to your digestive system when taken at high enough levels. But our body has a mechanism that prevents it from practically happening – sweating, shaking, and vomiting.

A technique to assess the hotness level of the spicy products is called the Scoville Scale. It was developed in 1912 by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

scoville scale of spice level

In 2020, vegan speed-eater and Youtuber Mike Jack broke the Guinness world record for the fastest time taken to eat three Carolina Reaper chilies.

One of the best-known spices, chili pepper, originates from Mexico. Later, as the European Age of Exploration started in the early 1500s, chili pepper expanded across the world.

Some research suggests that spicy food can stimulate the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin (“the happiness hormone”) in our brain.

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