Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why do we eat chilli?

Our tongue detects four flavours: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, but not spicy. Spiciness means pain. It is the result of the activation of pain receptors in the tongue. About a third of the people around the world consume hot peppers everyday, it's simply irresistible. But why? Humans are the only species we know about that specifically and CONSTANTLY seek out what would otherwise be considered negative events.

Image: dryriverchillies.co.uk
No sane humans would rinse their eyes with lemon juice, or stab themselves in the thighs, but a lot of us sane people(and insane ones) love to torture one of the most sensitive parts of our body, the tongue, with constant dose of eye-watering, sweat-inducing fruit.

Image: eu-sol.net
Naturally we are repelled by bitterness, for example tobacco and coffee. But those stuffs have additives that make them addictive--caffeine and nicotine.

Image: heavypen.com
Capsaicin, the naturally compound found in chillies, does not seem to have the same addictive property. Even children from cultures known for their spicy recipe are adverse to capsaicin.

Image: topnews.in
Hence we could somehow hypothesize that by consuming chillies we're merely desensitising ourselves: what used to be really painful is now just sort of painful--the pain is belittled.

               Image: talktalk.co.uk
Capsaicin bonds to a receptor on the tongue to produce the same sensation caused by heat. So our brain is tricked into believing that our tongue is on fire. Scientists found out that those who consume capsaicin regularly show higher tolerance for capsaicin than those who consume it irregularly.

The best explanation for our preference for spicy food comes from a mechanism called "benign masochism"--seeing the positive side of an event instead of the negative side. We are the only species capable of deriving pleasure from the negative sensation itself, while animals flee from it.

Perhaps we seek out the painful experience of snacking on chillies while consciously maintaining awareness that there is no real danger to ourselves. After all, people seem to enjoy – and actively seek out – many other sensations that are otherwise undesirable but are ostensibly safe: the sensation of falling provided by rollercoasters or skydiving and the feelings of fear and anxiety while watching horror movies.

Image: tlc.howstuffworks.com

Image: skydive-dc.com
And not forgetting the nutritional benefits of consuming chillies. Capsaicin itself has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. Chili peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals: Vitamin A, B-6, C, iron, copper, potassium and most importantly, no cholesterol.

It's painful, exciting, and nutritious. Oh my what a combination~

Have you taken your daily dose of chillies today? =P



  1. A lot of people are fond of eating spices. It causes pain in our mouth, but still it contains a lot of vitamins which is good for our health.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...