Men and Women May Like Spicy Foods for Different Reasons

Spicy foods have been linked to risk-taking, but traits behind that craving for capsaicin – feel the burn! – may be somewhat different in men than in women.

Here’s something to file away for future first dates: If you’re out in a restaurant and your date orders something spicy, he or she may be a risk-taker.

The link between spicy foods and risk-taking, established by researchers at Penn State University, is interesting in and of itself, but here’s an added twist: The personality traits behind that craving for capsaicin – feel the burn! – may be somewhat different in men than in women.

“In men, Sensitivity to Reward associated more strongly with liking and consumption of spicy foods, while in women, Sensation Seeking associated more strongly with liking and intake of spicy foods,” the Penn State researchers concluded in a new study, published in Food Quality and Preference. “These differences suggest that in men and women, there may be divergent mechanisms leading to the intake of spicy foods; specifically, men may respond more to extrinsic factors, while women may respond more to intrinsic factors.”

In other words, women enjoyed the taste of spicy food, whereas men enjoyed the idea of being the sort of person who eats spicy food.

“It is possible that the cultural association of consuming spicy foods with strength and machismo has created a learned social reward for men," the authors wrote.

Another recent study, from researchers at the University of Grenoble, in France, found that men who liked their food spicy had higher levels of testosterone.

So … who’s up for another bowl of chili?
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