The instant state of hyperhidrosis, the exasperating feeling that a thousand fire-ants had launched a diabolic campaign to ‘graffiti-spray’ the insides of my mouth with their toxic venom, then the disorientation I gassed into when I realized that water….well, that water was never the boss over pepper. So much for waakye and ‘delicious’ shito.
The spicy heat from that sweet-scented dark sauce was nothing short of flaming; and if researchers at Penn State University in Pennsylvania had not conducted this very crucial experiment, many others like me, would needlessly end up with a bellyful of water than food every time super-spicy foods are served.
These fabulous researchers discovered that both skimmed and whole milk are best at numbing the unpleasant sensation born as a result of consuming some really ‘hot’ chow.
According to them, the protein in milk, namely casein, soothes the pain by overriding capsaicin, the compound responsible for the pungent properties of chili peppers.
While sugary drinks such as Kool-Aid are recommended as a good-enough substitute in the absence of milk, the study also found that fizzy drinks and sparkling water were poor at soothing the pain.
And that alcoholic drinks only boosted the effect of capsaicin since ethanol present in alcohol amplifies the heat.
In their paper published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, the Penn State University researchers tested seven drinks on 72 people who were made to consume a spicy cocktail containing capsaicin.
The participants then drank water, cola, cherry-flavored Kool-Aid, carbonated water, non-alcoholic beer, skimmed milk and whole milk, and proceeded to rate how they perceived the pain to be every 10 seconds for two minutes.
Although it was discovered that all the drinks significantly reduced the burn, whole milk, skimmed milk and Kool-Aid were observed to have the largest and quickest reductions in burn.
The researchers tried to see if there was a link between participants’ perception of the burn and their exposure to spicy food but after the participants had answered questions on how often they consumed spicy food, and how much they liked spicy food no such relationship emerged.
Head of the research team, Alissa Nolden explained the findings: ‘We weren’t surprised that our data suggest milk is the best choice to mitigate burn.
‘But we didn’t expect skim milk to be as effective at reducing the burn as whole milk.
‘That appears to mean that the fat context of the beverage is not the critical factor and suggests the presence of protein may be more relevant than lipid content.’
‘Beverages with carbonation such as beer, soda and seltzer water predictably performed poorly at reducing the burn of capsaicin,’ she added.
‘And if the beer tested would have contained alcohol, it would have been even worse because ethanol amplifies the sensation.’