Why do people enjoy taking part in chilli-eating contests?

From BBC - April 10, 2018

For some people putting chillies in a meal can ruin it completely, while for others they are necessary for food to be as tasty as can be.

But there's also a third category of people who seek out the hottest chillies around - and eat them in competitions.

"It does become almost sort of addictive in a way," says Chilli Dave, of the Clifton Chilli Club.

But it can go wrong - as one man find out after eating the world's hottest chilli, the Carolina reaper, and suffering from "thunderclap" headaches.

It's the first time the headaches, which are caused by a sudden tightening of the vessels that supply blood to the brain, have been linked with chillies.

Why do people take part in chilli-eating competitions?

"When you have a really cheeky one your endorphins kick off and you get a bit of an adrenaline rush," Chilli Dave says.

He started off just taking part in chilli-eating competitions, but after winning a few with his friends they were asked to host a competition.

"With the really, really hot chillies, you get this lovely tingling, burning sensation, but it's actually not damaging you at all, it's all a trick of the mind," he says.

What do chillies actually do to your body?

Birds, unlike mammals, ca not taste capsaicin - the chemical in chillies that make them hot for humans.

It helps ensure that chilli seeds are spread effectively - because birds are not afraid to eat the plant.

But despite humans being able to feel the burn from the chillies' capsaicin, nutritionist Will Hawkins from Push Doctor agrees with Dave that it's all an illusion.

"Capsaicin is the main bioactive plant compound in chilli peppers, which can aid in the body's pain relief.

"It binds with pain receptors - the nerve endings in our bodies that sense pain - and although it can create a burning sensation, does not cause any burn injuries."

Chillies can actually help the body in a number of ways, Will says.

It can promote weight loss, by speeding up the body's metabolism, and can also reduce high blood pressure.

Are chilli-eating competitions getting more popular?


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