Friday, 10 July 2015

Chili Klaus, Gender & Spicy Food

Consuming capsaicin, an irritant component of chili peppers, is linked with health benefits. Its burning and stinging sensation, however, makes the consumption of spicy foods rather difficult. Health benefits are surely not the only driving force making people choose one food or the other and in the case of spicy foods it is assumed that (apart from taste phenotype, oral anatomy, prior exposure and familiarity) personality and affective responses may play an additional major role. Spicy foods are associated with strength and machismo in some cultures which may create social forces making men more susceptible to rating the liking of spicy foods comparably higher as these social forces do not exist for women.

In a laboratory setting, participants (n=246) rated food preference (10 ml. of 25 uM capsaicin was part of the stimuli) and sensations on a liking scale (analyses of affective ratings focused on three of the 27 food items) and later filled out personality surveys (Private Body Consciousness, Arnett's Inventory of Sensation Seeking, Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire).

One of the interesting results was the observation of differential effects of men versus women. In men, Sensation Seeking or Sensitivity to Punishment did not predict annual chili intake... neither was there a correlation between chili intake and most of the other personality constructs measured. However, men showed a tendency to like spicy foods when there was an association with Sensitivity to Reward (the items describe reactivity to rewarding situations comprising money, sex, social power, and approval). Women, however, liked spicy foods when they showed higher scores in Sensation Seeking (with the limitation that this was only true when consuming spicy BBQ ribs).
Translated into conclusions, these divergent mechanisms mean that women tend to respond to intrinisc factors when consuming spicy foods while men are rather led by extrinsic factors. The authors point out that their conclusions are tentative and that further work is necessary.

H I L A R I O U S :

::: Chili Klaus and Danish singer Michael Caroe perform Sinatra's My Way while eating the world's hottest chili peppers: WATCH/LISTEN

::: Chili Klaus and the Danish National Chamber Orchestra play Tango Jalousie while eating the world's hottest chili peppers: WATCH/LISTEN

- Byrnes, N. K. & Hayes, E. (2015). Gender differences in the influence of personality traits on spicy food liking and intake. Food Quality and Preference, 42, 12-19.
- photographs of the Red Hot Chili Peppers via and via

This posting was originally published on Science on Google+ on 31 May 2015