More than half of Americans find hot or spicy foods appealing. The age group most likely to order spicy foods in a restaurant are in the 10 to 34 year age group. When people are told they must modify their diet, the most likely response is “Don’t make me give up my chilies. I cannot live without them.” Eating hot peppers activates areas of the brain related to both pleasure and pain. In fact, relief and pleasure are intertwined, overlapping in the same area of the brain. Sensations of pleasure and aversion both rely on nerves in the brain stem. Researchers feel that the love of heat from spicy foods, particularly those containing chilies or hot peppers, are these two systems of pleasure and pain working together.
Chili peppers are one of the main sources of capsaicin, which gives them their “heat.” Capsaicin also has many health benefits. It may lower the risk of intestinal tumors, has possibilities of lowering other forms of cancer, may help fight obesity by boosting metabolic and fat burning rate, and if applied topically, reduces pain. Eating spicy foods may agree with you and you may enjoy them. However, limiting them toward bedtime may help avoid indigestion that makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. They are still linked with time spent awake during the night and taking longer to go to sleep.