Why Do Some People Tolerate Spicy Food?

You’ve probably noticed that people have
wildly different tolerances, when it comes to spicy food. Your friend can eat an entire bowl of chili
— doused with extra hot sauce — while you or said me, maybe we have to send that bowl
back to the kitchen, and order something little less spicy. Like buttered noodles. What gives? Well, scientists don’t know for sure what
allows some people to gulp down habanero salsa like it’s water, but it’s probably a mix
of several factors. For one thing, some people may simply be born
with less sensitivity to spice. That’s because spiciness is detected by
a sensory receptor called TRPV1. TRPV1 is a little protein that opens up in
response to physical temperature, but also when fiery molecules like capsaicin bind to
it, which is why a bite of jalapeño will make your tongue feel like it’s on fire. Scientists know that gene sequences that produce
the TRPV1 protein vary from person to person, so it could be that certain versions of the
receptor are more or less responsive than others. There’s also the matter of how much you
use your TRPV1 receptors. Lots of studies have documented a kind of
desensitization effect, where people who eat a lot of capsaicin — the compound that makes
hot peppers spicy — will have to eat even more capsaicin in order to taste the same
level of spiciness. So, people might have higher spice tolerances
because as they eat spicy food more regularly, they literally aren’t feeling as much burn. So just hit it with that siracha! Another theory suggests that it’s not that
spicy food burns less for some people — instead, it’s that some people like the burn. If you grow up eating tamales or curry, it
could be that you simply learn to enjoy the sensation because of repeated exposure. Or, the burn itself could be the real draw. After all, ask any chili-head if they can
feel the heat, and they most certainly tell you that they can… that’s what they love
about it! One psychologist calls this phenomenon benign
masochism. Like a roller coaster ride, it’s a safe
way to do something dangerous. One study has even linked this to personality
type. Among a group of mostly white college students,
people who reported liking spicy foods were more likely to be sensation-seekers. So, if you have a high spice tolerance, it
could be partly because of your genes, or because you’re on a constant diet of Tabasco
sauce that lowers your sensitivity… But it’s most likely to be because you’ve
simply learned to enjoy that tongue-tingling. Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to
all of our patrons on Patreon. Patreon is the site where people can go and
give money to things that they want to keep existing. So if you’d like to keep these answers coming,
or if you’d like to submit questions for us to answer, you can go to patreon.com/scishow. And if you wanna help us out just by watching,
and watching whenever a new episode comes out, we would love that, hopefully you would
too, and you can do that,by going to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!


  1. I DIE everytime we run out of chillies and peri-peri and cayenne pepper and Tabasco. I need the entire combination on my food to enjoy it or else I will starve.

  2. I have hated eating spicy food and after watching this I decided to see if I can get used to eating spicy Chile peppers 🌶 so one day I decided to try some very very spicy peppers I ate one and was hating life! But me being a up to difficult challenges decided to eat 2 more a few minutes later after the burn subsided… I took a bag of those peppers home and have started eating 1 after every meal by itself, now after a week I can eat it while still feeling some burn but it has become more tolerable I have noticed that I’m starting to taste the delicious flavor of the peppers instead of being overwhelmed by the burn… I think it’s like anything else one just needs to imagine food is scarce and peppers are Just needed Calories. It’s all mind over matter until you become accustomed to it…

  3. I literally can't handle any spice, even too much black pepper will burn my tongue and throat and destroy my stomach

  4. I'm a weak person in terms of spice. Takis are only bad in large amounts, I can't stand Doritos Flamas. I just am very inconsistent

  5. I hate that burning feeling on my mouth. It just feels uncomfortable. I enjoy food more when it's not that spicy or simply not spicy.

  6. I think I have a pretty high tolerance for spicy foods. But one thing I love that's "hot" that I'm pretty sure you don't develop a tolerance for is horseradish, so I guess I'm just a masochist…

  7. www.hotlinepepperproducts.com gourmet cooking hot sauces. Now offering FREE SHIPPING. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Honestly I don't completely agree with the masochism one. I definitely don't feel the burn as much as I used to in some foods and some foods that used to be spicy are….not anymore. Sure I like the burn but I can tolerate more than my past self as an example, so I have to eat more to get the same sensation. I don't know if it's all mental or what but yeah

  9. Can you build your tolerance to them? I'm harvesting Jalepenos & cohorts now which are LOW on the scroll illegal scale.. To me they are 🔥 🔥

  10. I think It's a question of culture but I really hate spicy food. Your mouth hurts and you barely enjoy the meal. When I visited the USA I hated the food there, especially for the obsession that people have with pepper. In 99% of restaurants, I almost had to plead for a not spicy version of food…

  11. It's kinda amusing to me that I have higher tolerance to spicy food than my parents and they do like moderately spicy food themselves. (We're Korean, which ties to how) Once, a relative gave us some kimchi she made and since she lived further south than Seoul, her kimchi was spicier than the ones I'd usually have. I wanted that version while my mum complained about how saltier and spicier it was.

  12. With me people think I handle spicy food like I it is nothing but really I say it is not spicy because I don't want to be called a p***y

  13. I love the burn. Yes, I'm sweating, in pain, have a runny nose, and blowing my nose every 30 seconds, but I'm also really enjoying int. It's like a drug.

  14. I'm Latino and I fake liking spicy food. I'm super self conscious about it. It just seems like all my friends and family love the stuff, especially my younger brother, but for some reason I can't take the spice.

    I'm playing a dangerous game, and i just know my secret is gonna get blown eventually. It's too late to come clean, I'm in too deep, bois.

  15. People of European descent can't handle it. they are used to normal food that is bland. people like Latin Americans and basically Spanish handle it because it's how their culture was formed. Asians handle it better than whites and blacks don't as much.

  16. I love me the spicy. I love me the flavor of hot peppers. I need to stop making spicy collard greens though, they burn more on the way out.

  17. I made jalapeño eggs the other day. I don’t even seed the peppers any more, I just chop them up. It was spicy AF. But only for the first bite or two. Then it’s like, it’s only pain. They where very good eggs.

  18. The first point about being born with a spicy tolerance only count for a microscopic minority of the population, the second point about growing a tolerance, that may be true to some extent. Personally I like to believe it's a mix of the 2nd and 3rd point they made, not that you grow to feel the heat less but that you grow to like the burn more and more.

  19. I like it because I just like feeling! 😀
    Even if it's supposed to be a negative feeling XD
    Nature can't tell me what I have to enjoy! I am the master of my mouth and the captain of my soul food! ;D

    But after awhile, whatever the reason, you probably get a bit desensitized XD
    So you just add more to keep feeling the burn! 😀
    (Otherwise it wouldn't be "spicy food" would it? Just like any human eating something that would taste spicy to an eagle doesn't consider it "spicy food" XD )
    (But we do consider it spicy food! So the desensitization happens but doesn't explain it! 😀 )

    For me if I have no spice, I add extra salt or seasonings to compensate
    Because the reason for spicy for me at least, is to make the food

    Interesting 😀

    (and when I eat extremely interesting-to-me food, I don't mind if it's not spicy :3 )

    (oh and for backstory, I ate habaneros when I was like 8 and now buy tens of pounds of crushed red pepper at a time and pour it from mason jars onto every single savory dish I eat (and sometimes sweet ones too!) XD )

  20. My mom is one of those and she is like a 100 % northern European so I know it's not genes in her case.

  21. Well, another reason is that peppers have a great source of vitamin C which is essential for your body. This is especially true if you live in a area that doesn’t have a lot of food, like the dessert. Your body will get used to the pain in order to provide the body with the vitamins it needs. This is just a adaptation humans have evolved to have. Anyone can get used to spicy food if they constantly eat it. This is what I was taught in school at least.

  22. I'm white… %100 Irish. I can sit down and eat unbelievably spicy food. I eat hot sauce that most people consider a joke or novelty because it's so hot. My wife who's %100 Peruvian needs a gallon of milk if her mashed potatoes have black pepper in them. Its definitely not a race thing.

  23. So when I'm eating pasta I put sooo much pepper flakes I do it to the point where a lot of it is red for my spicy lovers out there I suggest this it's amazing my the first time you do it you kinda tear up and your nose gets so bit runny but it's a good price to pay💕😍

  24. Adding some hot sauce to some hot soup is everything when youre sick. Clears your nose and soothes your chest.

  25. I'm here because I've developed a tolerance to habanero hot sauce over the course of three days. I've been getting wings from a local place for a kick, but recently.. they're just meh. Spicy as tobasco without a tolerance I guess. I liked the rush from the burn, sadly I don't know where to get anything hotter around here.

  26. i cooked some peppers today, and didn't wash my hands after seeding them. i sneezed, and… i'm suffering. the burn in my throat and nose is so bad. currently with my face in a bowl of milk

  27. I love spicy food, it's hard for me to find the spiciness I want now though I even drink pepsi or coke with my to give it a boost

  28. By some people, you mean pretty much the whole of humanity from middle East to South Asia to Southeast Asia to China to Latin America.
    Get a life. 4+ billion people is not some people.

  29. Most people crave food when hungry, I crave hardcore burn. Although I need food to compliment the spice or else I’ll get sever capsaicin cramps and almost die

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *