Peppers: What Doesn’t Kill You . . . Proves You’re Intelligent?

The New York Times has a wonderful article all about chili peppers today. I love it!  I am, and have for some time been, a fan of chili peppers and foods made pungent with their capsaicin and in this article there is a rather simple, if not odd, explanation for why this might be.  Simply (and oddly) it is because we enjoy the thrill of the pain produced.  It is a form of benign masochism.  As the article explains, humans are the only mammals that will willingly consume hot peppers (birds will because capsaicin does not produce the burning sensation for them).  While there are some studied benefits to eating hot chilis, the theory stands that it is the thrill, the increased endorphin levels, that we like more than anything, and this actually demonstrates just how advanced our brains are.

This makes me think of another example in regards to food stuff that people will consume.  Foods that are bitter in flavor.  In nature bitterness often denotes poisonous (though this is certainly not a universal rule) and thus many animals have a natural and averse feeling towards bitterness.  Not humans.  We consume all sorts of bitter foods (though, like hot peppers, I think bitter foods have a fair number of people who detest them).  Our advanced minds have allowed us to override our purely physiological reactions to certain sensations that do not actually pose a significant risk.  We also ride roller coasters and willingly own pets that are descended from wolves.

So take a bit of pleasure, that chili you just ate might make you feel like your heads on fire, but at least it is a head with one hell of an intelligent brain.

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~ by Nathaniel on September 21, 2010.

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