Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Do We Eat Chili's?

Chili's get their heat from capsaicin, an organic compound that fights off a fungus that attacks chili seeds. More capsaicin is produced in chili's where the fungus is more likely to grow, and little where the fungus is not a danger. Aside from humans, no other mammal eats these beasts. But if they're so spicy, why do we eat chili's?

Some push the health card b/c chili's: help lower blood pressure, may have antimicrobial effects, and the pain of chilies can neutralize other pain. Dr. Paul Rozin argues that the beneficial effects are too small to explain why. What's his proposition?

Benign masochism.

Dr. Rozin tested chili eaters by gradually increasing the pain (pungency) of the food. Participants all preferred the level closest to unbearable. He says we eat chili's for the same reason we ride roller coasters - for the thrill. He says only humans enjoy events that produce feelings we are programmed to avoid.

Whatever the case, it still doesn't explain this woman who eats jolokia peppers (hottest in the world) like candy, even rubbing it in her eyes.

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