Ask The Expert

The Lowdown on Chilli Highs

Food scientist, Dr Stuart Farrimond is working with Encona to celebrate the launch of their hottest sauce yet, by giving us the low-down on those strange sensations chillies cause us to experience. He reveals the fiery kick of a chilli isn’t a flavour, but a sensation of pain. “There sensation we get from eating chillies is separate to our taste buds. This means that even as our sense of taste diminishes from old age, we will continue to experience the burning sensation and buzz chillies deliver.” Brits love to spice things up in the kitchen, so chilli-heads will be happy to know the flames we feel from eating a hot chilli will never lose their spark!

Dr Stuart Farrimond

Capsaicin, the main component that gives chilli its zing, is felt through the pain pathways and sends an electrical impulse through the body, tricking the brain into feeling heat. Once the nerve receptors have been switched on, the burning sensation cannot be undone.

Dr Farrimond adds, “Capsaicin is 150 times more potent than the piperine chemical found in black pepper and despite the perceived pain, no matter how much chilli we eat, the tissue in our mouth isn’t damaged. Over time you can build up a tolerance to chilli by teaching your brain that the heat is not dangerous or harmful”.

Many of us have a love-hate relationship when it comes to spicy foods, and humans are the only species in the animal kingdom that enjoy eating hot things, with the combination of pain and pleasure being the draw that makes us crave and enjoy it.

Chilli can also make food more pleasurable as we age by compensating for the loss of other tastes. “While many elderly people chose to add salt to liven up a meal or recipe, chilli is a much healthier alternative”.

As well as enhancing flavours, chilli turns up the body’s thermostat, helping to keep us cool on hot days, while burning off calories and stimulating the brain to release feel-good endorphins. Despite giving the illusion of harm, capsaicin actually reduces inflammation, and is used as a cream or patch to ease long-term pain, and studies have shown people who eat chillies regularly live longer.

In 2016 sales of hot sauces experienced a growth of 7.2%, while sales of traditional sauces such as ketchup and brown sauce were down 3.7%, according to Kantar Worldwide. The report further found that supermarkets were increasingly giving more shelf space to spicier sauces.

Encona recipe development chef, Girish Joshi, commented: “There is strong demand for sauces that are full of flavour and hotter than ever. We recently launched our spiciest sauce to date, the Carolina Reaper, and the response has been amazing! Britain’s appetite for all things hot and spicy is certainly on the rise and consumers are loving the added kick from our range.”

Encona’s Limited Edition Carolina Reaper chilli sauce is not for the faint hearted and is more than 22 times hotter than the piri piri chilli! So hot, in fact, that it matches weapons-grade pepper spray and the Carolina Reaper has been crowned the world’s hottest chilli in The Guinness World Records.

Adding a dash of inspiration to any meal or recipe, Encona’s range of hot sauces are wonderfully versatile and can be used as a cooking ingredient, marinade or table sauce for the whole family to enjoy.

“We know that different people handle the heat in different ways, and when it comes to getting the best experience from chillies there is certainly no one size fits all approach. That’s why our broad range of sauces caters to everyone’s chilli threshold and cooking tastes,” says Joshi.

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