I love spicy food, and today I ate a burger filled with jalapenos. I was wondering why some people can handle heat better than others and how our tongues gauge different amounts of heat.
The Scoville Scale
The amount of heat/spiciness that the pepper’s give is measured on the Scoville Scale. The higher the pepper is on the scale, the spicier it gets.
Green Bell Pepper – 0 Units
Anaheim Pepper – 500-2,000 Units
Jalapeno Pepper – 2,500 – 8,000 Units
Cayenne Pepper – 30,000 – 50,000 Units
Habanero Pepper – 200,000 – 350,000 Units
Carolina Reaper – 1,569,300 Units!
**Peppers and scoville units provided by Business Insider
These are a few common peppers to gauge different levels of heat! Notice that the Carolina Reaper is about 200 times hotter than the hottest jalapeno pepper. That is insane! I will definitely stay from these since I can barely handle a jalapeno!
Why Does it HURT?!
According to wired.com, an active ingredient in spicy food known as capsaicin binds to a special class of vanilloid receptor inside our mouth. This receptor is called a VR1 receptor. Once capsaicin binds to these receptors, it sense out a sensory neuron to our brain, indicating the presence of spicy stimuli.
A Strange Connection
The strange part regarding VR1 receptors is that it wasn’t designed to detect capsaicin. It binds to spicy food on accident. It was initially intended for thermoreception, which is to detect hot food –not necessarily spicy food. The sensation that is experienced by eating spicy food can be comparable to boiling water, but that pain is an illusory side-effect which confuses the neural receptors.