It’s easy to see why people avoid spicy foods. They’re uncomfortable, even painful to eat. Why would someone put themselves through such a thing? Food is meant to be enjoyed; the flavors should be savored on our tongues. You can’t do that with spicy food unless you purposely want to harm the inside of your mouth. But there’s something appealing in spicy foods. Eating them is like biting into a rollercoaster ride. Can I get through this? If you’re a guy and your answer is yes, there’s a good chance you have higher levels of testosterone, a new study finds.
That’s what a new study, from researchers at France’s University of Grenoble, found in their new study titled “Some Like It Hot.” To test this correlation, they recruited 114 men aged 18 to 44 and asked them whether they preferred spicy food or not, then they gave the men a meal of mashed potatoes and provided them with either a spicy pepper sauce or regular table salt (a control seasoning). The men were then asked to report how spicy they felt their meals were, and the researchers measured levels of testosterone in their saliva. Men with the most testosterone were also the ones who liked the spicier potatoes.
“These results are in line with a lot of research showing a link between testosterone and financial, sexual, and behavioral risk-taking,” Laurent Begue, an author of the study, told The Telegraph. “In this case, it applies to risk-taking in taste.”
Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced in abundance in men, and is responsible for their muscle mass, strength, bone density; the maturation of sex organs, deepening of the voice, and basically everything else that men go through during puberty.
The research team also speculated that spicy foods could have a reinforcing effect, in which they boost testosterone, and thus, more testosterone increases a person’s liking of spicy food — they said, however, this effect had only been seen so far in rats. It’s likely that’s not the case, however. The researchers noted that there could have been two other reasons for the findings: the men with higher testosterone could have been attracted to the hot sauce, with its aggressive red color (studies have found links between these) or maybe they just grew up eating spicy food. But all these show is that spicy food doesn’t cause testosterone levels to jump, even if there’s a correlation.
Source: Begue L, Bricout V, Boudesseul J, Shankland R, Duke A. Some like it hot: Testosterone predicts laboratory eating behavior of spicy food. Physiology & Behavior. 2014.