A new study by French scientists shows that there’s a link between a male’s preference for spicy food and his levels of testosterone - the hormone linked to typically "manly" traits, such as aggression, high sex drive and risk-taking.
The researchers from the University of Grenoble gave 114 men aged between 18 and 44 a plain bowl of mashed potato, and told them to season it with as much hot sauce and salt as they liked.
After they’d eaten, the scientists measured how hot and salty their meal had been and took saliva samples. They found that the men who’d doused their food in hot sauce had higher testosterone levels then their peers who’d gone for milder heat.
Salt preference, however, didn’t seem to have any link to testosterone levels. The results have been published in an article appropriately titled “Some Like it Hot” in the journal Physiology and Behaviour.
But although the correlation between preference for capsaicin - the active ingredient that makes chillis hot - and testosterone levels was clear, it’s important to remember that correlation doesn’t equal causation, and it’s too early to say whether this link is anything more than a coincidence.
“A wide range of factors, including genetic, physiological, psychological and social forces, influence the liking and consumption of capsaicin-containing food,” the authors write.
But there could also be more going on.
"These results are in line with a lot of research showing a link between testosterone and financial, sexual and behavioural risk-taking," one of the authors of the study, Laurent Begue, told the Telegraph. "In this case, it applies to risk-taking in taste. It is also possible that the regular consumption of spicy food contributes to increasing testosterone levels, although so far this has only been demonstrated on rodents."
The study she’s referring to is a paper from 2013 that showed that mice who ate capsaicin demonstrated increased hormone levels compared to a control group.
There’s also the possibility that biology has nothing to do with it, and these men are simply affected by the cultural opinion that men who eat spicy food are more “manly”. Men with higher testosterone are known to be more competitive, so they could simply be withstanding burning hot food in order to show off.
Just maybe don’t try one of these Carolina Reaper chillis like the Crude Brothers below. You’ve been warned.