Thrill-seekers like their food hot and spicy

Thrill-seekers like their food hot and spicy

Whether you’re an adrenaline-junkie or a chilled-out Zen master, your taste for spicy foods might be tied to your personality according to a new study.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University wanted to find out if there was a connection between personality types and a preference for tongue-stinging spices. The information was presented at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists.

Study leaders used a specialized questionnaire called the Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking (AISS), to survey 184 nonsmoking people between ages 18-45. Researchers made sure study members didn’t have any underlying conditions that would affect their taste buds.

The AISS tests for “the personality trait of sensation-seeking, defined as desiring novel and intense stimulation and presumed to contribute to risk preferences,” study leaders said.

Those who scored above the midpoint on the scale were more likely to be risk-takers and lovers of new experiences while those scoring below the mean tended to be those who play things safe in life.

The participants were then given a small amount capsaicin which is the ingredient that gives chili peppers their heat. The amount of capsaicin was gradually increased and the subjects were asked for their reaction.

Those who scored high on the AISS expressed positive reactions to the spice as compared with the low scoring members who reacted negatively. The amount of capsaicin was gradually increased and the reactions followed the same pattern.

Study leader Nadia Byrnes said the high scorers seemed less sensitive to the kick of the spice.

“They don’t rate it as intense. And again we’re not sure if that means that biologically they’re not getting as much of a response, or if they’re desensitized, or if they are the type of person who went skydiving the day before, so the burn of capsaicin in relation to the rush of adrenalin doesn’t rate that high,” Byrnes said in a statement.

Apart from the possible connection between personality type and preference for hot and spicy dishes, health experts say those tangy choices could lead to a form of heartburn called gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD.

The American College of Gastroenterology reports that more than 60 million people in the U.S. have a case of GERD at least once a month.

The heartburn people feel is an acid that can burn the inside of the esophagus, which is the muscular tube leading from the throat down to the stomach. This can cause difficulty swallowing, bleeding, ulcers and even changes to the lining of your esophagus, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. These conditions, in turn, can raise the risk of esophageal cancer.

Dr. Rockford Yapp, gastroenterologist on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says there are a variety of contributing factors that cause reflux disease in addition to spicy dishes.

“Caffeine, alcohol and fatty foods have all been shown to have a direct effect putting pressure on the valve between the esophagus and stomach, causing heartburn,” he says.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.