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Spicy food lovers more vulnerable to stress: study

Feb. 17, 2015 - 17:13 By Lee Hyun-jeong
People who love spicy food are more vulnerable to stress, a study showed Tuesday, indicating that one’s choice of food is related to one’s stress level.

According to a study led by psychiatry professor Kim Sung-gon of Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital, a group of spicy food lovers showed higher cortisol level in a stress test than those who liked milder food. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress or low levels of blood glucose.

The two groups were asked to solve math questions while putting their left hand in cold water to measure the stress difference. About half an hour after the test, the stress level of the spicy food lovers reached 7.7 ng/ml on average, which is 1 ng/ml higher than the other group. An hour later, the first group’s stress level decreased to 5.3 ng/ml but was still 0.4 ng/ml higher than the other group, researchers said.

The study result was published in the latest issue of the Korean Society of Biological Therapy in Psychiatry’s journal.

Spicy food lovers attempted to activate their central nervous system by eating hot food in order to relieve their abnormal stress level, the report said.

During the experiment, the researchers also looked into the relationship between preferences for alcohol and spicy food.

Comparing the spicy food preference between alcoholics and nonalcoholics, the research team found that that the addicts preferred hot food, the report added.

“The study suggests that hot food lovers are more vulnerable to stress, and thereby want to drink more to relieve stress,” Kim said. “Focusing on the interaction between spicy food consumption, drinking habits and stress level may give us clues about how to solve problems like alcoholism.”

By Lee Hyun-jeong (