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The Spice of Life

Hot rods and hot sauce have more in common than you might think

Author Jacqueline Detwiler


Does the phrase “Lava hot wings of doom” make your heart flutter? How about “Monster Steve’s roller coaster of doom”? According to a new study from the Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn State University, your preference for both may be connected. The researchers recruited about 100 subjects and had them taste diluted capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, and report how often they ate spicy foods and how much they liked them. They also asked students to rate themselves in regard to their affinity for “sensation seeking,” a personality factor associated with everything from entrepreneurialism to drug use. It turned out that people who scored higher in sensation seeking (Sample questions included “I would have enjoyed being one of the first explorers of an unknown land”) liked hot foods more and ate them more often than those who scored lower. At the moment, there’s no way to tell whether being a sensation seeker leads people to love spice, or if eating hot foods leads people to enjoy risky activities, but for now, indulging in a plate of Thai chili stir fry can’t hurt. Or can it?

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