Are spicy foods harmful to health?

Different people’s tolerance to spicy food is different. Some people love spicy food, while others cannot tolerate it. But there is no scientific consensus on whether spicy foods have a positive or negative effect on human health.

In September 2023, a 14-year-old boy from Massachusetts died after eating hot peppers during the “Spicy Chips Challenge”. The hottest peppers in the world are used in this challenge. While the death of this teenager is still under investigation, this incident has caused some of the hot chips used in the said challenge to be removed from stores.

The charm of spicy food

Spicy foods can refer to foods with a strong flavor of spices, such as Asian curry, Tex-Mex cuisine, and Hungarian aperitif. Spicy food can also include foods that contain capsaicin; A chemical compound that exists to varying degrees in hot peppers. As the capsaicin content of pepper increases, its rating on the Scoville scale also increases. The Scoville scale shows the spiciness of pepper.

Dr. Paul D. Terry, professor of epidemiology at the University of Tennessee, on the website conversation Capsaicin is associated with the sensation of heat, he writes, because the compound activates biological pathways in mammals that are activated by heat. The pain caused by spicy food can cause the body to produce endorphins and dopamine, and this can cause a sense of relief or even euphoria.

Short-term effects of consuming spicy foods on health

The short-term effects of consuming spicy foods range from a pleasant feeling of heat to an unpleasant burning sensation in the lips, tongue, and mouth. These foods can also cause various digestive disorders, headaches and vomiting.

If consuming unpleasant foods is annoying or causes unpleasant symptoms such as migraine, abdominal pain and diarrhea, it is better to avoid consuming these foods. Spicy foods may cause the aforementioned symptoms in people with inflammatory bowel disease.

lack of consensus

For years, researchers have studied the potential risks and benefits of long-term consumption of spicy foods. The consequences of consuming spicy foods have been investigated in relation to things like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Alzheimer’s, heartburn and ulcers, mental health, pain sensitivity and death, but various studies report conflicting results.

According to the studies, some consequences such as heartburn have a stronger connection with the consumption of spicy foods. On the other hand, experts say that spicy foods do not cause stomach ulcers.

When considering study results, remember that what people eat is part of a larger set of lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, body weight, tobacco and alcohol use, that also affect health.

It is not easy to accurately measure the influence of lifestyle and dietary factors in population-based studies. People may not remember or accurately report contributing factors. Long and numerous studies are needed to reach the conclusion that one of the components of the diet has an effect on a particular aspect of health.

Scientists still do not fully understand why many people enjoy spicy foods while others do not, although they speculate that evolutionary, cultural, and geographic factors play a role, as well as psychological, biological, and pharmacological factors.

In general, the results of various studies regarding the properties and potential harms of spicy foods for human health are contradictory. Spicy foods may not be harmful for most people, but for some people, including those with inflammatory bowel disease, they may be unpleasant and aggravate their symptoms.

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