What makes some people reach for extra spice?


You may love extra spice, but your spouse or best friend may hate it.

It’s hard for true spice lovers to understand what would ever make someone turn down the opportunity to turn up the heat on mealtime. After all, the hot pepper scale is full of flavorful options, from the mild to the truly earth scorching hot! So how do some people end up loving it, while others would rather do without? It may have to do with how you grew up, or even your adventurous side.

To understand it, you may have to get down to the science of spicy food.

Hot peppers contain a compound called capsaicin. It’s essentially the spicy hot part of a pepper. When you eat something with capsaicin in it, it activates a receptor on your tongue and in your mouth called the TRPV1 receptor. The number of receptors, and their sensitivity, can vary from person to person. That’s just one explanation of why some people can’t stand spicy food, and others are attracted to it. There’s another theory, too. It seems the more you were exposed to capsaicin during your life, the higher your tolerance. If you grew up eating spicy food, you may not even notice when something is spicy, compared to someone else who mostly eats mildly seasoned or bland food.

The next theory about why some people love spice and why others don’t may be a psychological one.

Some people love the feeling of eating spicy food. They may find it exhilarating or pleasurable, rather than painful. Some people describe getting a sort of spicy food high from eating things like hot peppers. Of course, you can always change your eating habits, but knowing your spice preference may make it easier to understand why you find certain peppers more enjoyable than others do.

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