Next month, millions of people will flock to the live music capital of the nation, Austin, Texas to hear new music from around the world at South by Southwest. They will also have the opportunity to experience a little Texas flavor as well – flavor that just might fire-up your metabolism, squelch your appetite and ignite your libido – all the while searing your taste buds.
Tears of Joy in Austin, Texas serves up extract from one of the hottest peppers in the world: the Naga Viper. To help you understand just how hot this pepper is, you have to understand the Scoville Scale: Scoville Heat Units (SHU) measure the amount of capsaicin in peppers. Capsaicin is the chemical found in peppers that make them hot! hot! hot!
To put things in perspective, pepper spray used by law enforcement is a diluted version of a much more potent extract that registers between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 units, while a jalepeno barely emits smoke at 2,500 units. The Naga Viper pepper holds the record for being the “hottest” pepper on the market, ringing the bell at over 1 million units.
Pretty hot, right? Consumption of a pepper that spicy could be deadly, but if spend time making your dishes sizzle with a few peppers on the more tolerable end of the scale or consume concentrated capsules of capsaicin, you might discover that life will get a little hotter – in all the best ways possible that is.
In 2006, The New York Times reported a study validating the claim that capsaicin increases metabolism. Adding some spice to your dish or consuming foods known for their level of spice, like chili, can raise your metabolic rate by about 8 percent. The same study also found that despite the relatively low boost to your metabolism, capsaicin reduces appetite, on average, to the tune of consuming 200 fewer calories per meal – the meal currently being consumed as well as meals later in the day. In 2011, the Oxford Journal, Chemical Senses, published a meta-analysis that also concluded that capsaicin does in fact rev up metabolism and suppress appetite, albeit very modestly. Scientists determined that capsaicin is by no means the cure for weight loss woes, but it does indeed aid weight management efforts.
Of course the hope of whittling your waistline is not the only reason to set your tongue ablaze. The spiciest of peppers can fire-up your sex drive as well – just be sure to error on the side of caution when turning up the heat – the pill-form will not be effective in this manner. Chomping into a spicy pepper causes the brain to send out signals to raise your heart rate, increase perspiration and release endorphins – the same response induced by other “exciting” activities. So, heat things up in the bedroom faster by adding a little spice.
Please note that spicy peppers and other spicy foods are known to exacerbate ulcers and worsen symptoms of heartburn – consume with caution – if at all.