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A study of hot sauce consumers

Some of you participated in a study not too long ago and helped out a student. Thanks for doing that and proving, once again, that PoKW chiliheads have the biggest hearts out there. She sent us a copy of her report and gave us permission to post it here for all of you to read. Thanks again and enjoy!

Contributed by Karyn T Bremilst
Spicy foods can be intimidating to some people, yet exciting to others. There are hot
sauce selections that carry a warning label, letting consumers know that consuming the product can be dangerous. There are hot wing challenges and chili cook-offs that pack a punch that some people would find difficult to swallow, but there are other people sometimes dubbed “Chiliheads” who enjoy the lingering heat that can only be extinguished with ice cream, milk or cheese. It’s noted by the Chile Pepper Institute that “The best way to ease the burning sensation is to drink milk, or eat any dairy product. A substance found in dairy products known as casein helps to disrupt the burning sensation” (Chile with us). Do the people who partake in consuming the heat be attributed to a sense of self pride and challenge or can it be that the people who pile on the habanera hot sauce, or sprinkle cayenne pepper on everything have an addiction to consuming spicy foods? According to an article about hot peppers, the capsaicin, which is a substance, in peppers is addictive. The article notes that when consuming a hot pepper and releasing the substance it “A mild euphoria results, and hot peppers can be mildly addictive because of this hot pepper “high” (How hot is hot).

A mild addiction to capsaicin is not the only possible reason why people consume spicy
foods. The challenge of completing a painful indulgence with an award has also been witnessed. Included in an article called “The Pleasure of Pain: The Psychology of Craving and Indulging in Spicy Foods” it was noted “Another reason why some people crave exceedingly spicy food is for the sense of accomplishment they get from eating them” (The Pleasure of Pain). The rewards can range from t-shirts, photographs, certificates and of course the bragging rights of polishing off a plate of a spicy inferno. Adam Richmond, a TV icon who is notorious for eating large amounts of food or spicy challenges in Man vs. Food, can be seen sweating profusely why trying to tackle a challenge that was held at Chucky’s Burgers in San Antonio, Texas. The challenge was called the “Four Horsemen” burger challenge and it included the world’s hottest peppers including jalapenos, Serrano, Habanero sauce and finally the ghost pepper (this pepper is about
one hundred times hotter than a jalapeño). The episode is difficult to watch as Adam slowly consumes the burger with rubber gloves, the sweat is pooling around him and his lips are beet red. He has twenty five minutes to eat the burger in its entirety and the catch is he is not allowed to drink anything five minutes after he has completed the challenge. As you watch in amazement (and horror), one must wonder why a person would put themselves in this predicament. It’s all revealed when he has completed the challenge as he is rewarded with a glass of milk, a Popsicle, then finally his picture on the wall. This is a fine example of what great lengths and self torture a person will put their body through for the burn and self pride.

On the flip side, there can be something said about the heat and the reaction the body
performs when a person consumes hot peppers. There is an endorphin rush or capsaicin high which is a “euphoric sensation caused by the consumption of the large quantities of capsaicin from capsaicin-laden foods” (Capsaicin). This type of reaction can be why people tend to continue to consume spicy food as there is something to be said about the rush. This capsaicin high can be compared to a runners high which is said to be a release of endorphins, contributing to the “high” experienced after running.

The data collection method for the research paper on whether or not people consume
spicy food for the challenge or addiction (or another reason) is being gathered via email, social networks, and free websites. Primary data has been collected by the initial phone interview which was followed up by an email interview to another subject that included the same questions. Both submissions will be used to support the problem statement.

The second source of primary data is a mix of both a social network, Face Book, and a free
website called Survey Monkey. A short survey named “Hot or Not” was created with a target audience or focus group specified. The survey is comprised of eight multiple choice questions which require answers. The questions are as follows:
1. How often do you eat spicy food?
2. Do you enjoy the sensation when you consume spicy foods?
3. What is it about spicy food that draws you to eat it?
4. Do you get a “euphoric” high from consuming spicy foods?
5. Do you feel as though you are addicted to spicy foods?
6. Do you eat spicy food solely for the bragging rights?
7. What is your threshold for heat based on a 1-10 scale, 1 being the mildest?
8. Do you frantically search for a hot sauce before a meal?

Each question has a selection of answers to choose from and questions 1 and 3 have an
“other” box for the survey taker to add their own answer if it is not included in the multiple
choice selection. The link to this survey was emailed to a specific target audience and if the
person knew others who enjoy spicy foods, they were asked to forward the survey on. The ideal number of respondents is one hundred people in order to gather enough information to properly analyze the results and support or deny the problem statement.

A well known hot sauce shop in Key West called Peppers of Key West was contacted and
asked to post the survey “Hot or Not” on their website in order to gather the appropriate number of respondents for the data analysis. The owner, Pete, did agree to provide the link to his employees and post the link on his stores Face Book page. The survey has not yet been posted, but a follow up will be completed at week’s end of April 16th. The survey was also posted on a personal Face Book page where several people have taken the survey. At this time, there have been twenty five participants and if the data collection goes as planned; the remaining seventy five (or more) survey takers will be completed the week of April 23rd. The research paper will also include secondary data collections based on research and analysis comprised by others. The internet, articles, journals and the college library will be used as sources for secondary data collections.

The data collected was by use of a uniquely created survey dubbed “Hot or Not” hosted
by Survey Monkey along with a phone interview and email interview. There were eighty
participants who provided enough information to make a solid determination about the problem statement on whether or not people eat spicy food for the challenge or if they have an addiction. The survey was emailed to a target audience who enjoy spicy foods and the owner from “Peppers of Key West” added the link to his stores Face Book website which provided the majority of the responses.

It has been concluded that 48.8% of the people consume spicy foods two to three times
per week and 22.5% enjoy it once a day. A smaller set of 5% eat spicy food twice a day while 8% actually enjoy it three times a day! The remaining responses (15%) consume it rarely or on occasion. When it comes to enjoying the sensation of consuming spicy foods, a whopping 96.3% of the people said that they do enjoy it, leaving only 3.8% who do not. The draw to consuming spicy foods has been confirmed by 68.8% of the people as being the “taste” where 27.5% say they have a “craving” for something spicy. Some of the participants (12%) enjoy the burning sensation, where 8.8% either like the challenge or have the need to consume something with heat.

The majority (65%) of consumers of spicy food said that they do not receive a euphoric
high (similar to a runners high) when they eat spicy food while 36.3% that they do experience a high. When asked if people have an addiction to spicy foods, where the word addiction is defined as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma“ (addiction) it was determined that 66.3% are not while the reaming feels as though they are addicted. Eating spicy foods solely for bragging rights during competitions or cook offs only 1% of the respondents agreed. The threshold for heat (on a scale of one to ten; ten being the hottest), the majority of the people like the heat between a six and eight. Out of the eighty participants’, 10 % enjoy the max heat while only 1% like it mild. Last but not least, it was unveiled that 13.8% do frantically search for the hot sauce before a meal while 40% do not. Apparently, there are meals that require heat because most of the respondents, 46.3% sometimes do frantically search for hot sauce before a meal which may lead to a new study as to what the people are consuming that requires hot sauce!

In conclusion the data collected illustrates that people do not eat spicy food for the
challenge as only 1% said that they do consume food for the challenge or bragging rights. That means that television dare devils like Adam Richmond fall into a small category and does not support the problem statement. Whether or not people are actually addicted to spicy food is debatable. Even though 66.3% feel as though they are not addicted to spicy food, 35 % believe that are addicted. There could also be a connection between having a craving and being addicted as 27.5% people consume spicy foods to extinguish their craving for something spicy. Regarding food addictions, it’s noted that “Food addicts develop a physical, mental, emotional craving and chemical addiction to food” (Mental Health). This could apply to spicy foods because one of the characteristics of an addiction to a particular food includes “Remembering a sense of pleasure“ (Mental Health) that a food provides where 36.3% said they experience a euphoric high when consuming spicy foods and 96.3% enjoy the sensation spicy foods provides.

Even though there was no solid evidence or supporting material linking spicy food to an
addiction as most of the resources center around high fat, chocolate and carbohydrate ridden foods, the survey “Hot or Not” could be revised to further investigate the possibility.


Works Cited
“Addiction.” Web 8 May 2012.
“Capsaicin.” Web. 4 Apr. 2012.
“Chile with us.” Web. 26 Apr. 2012.
“How hot is hot.” Web. 26 Apr. 2012.
“Mental Health and Food Addiction.” Web. 7 May 2012.
“The Pleasure of Pain: The Psychology of Craving and Indulging in Spicy Foods.” Web. 4 Apr. 2012

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