South Korea-based psychiatry professor Sung-Gon Kim, of Busan National University, says he’s found a link between spicy food and alcohol – and it has something to do with our brain’s self-reward mechanism.
After a series of experiments, Professor Kim found people who are dependent on alcohol are more likely to enjoy spicy food.
He also found that medication used in the treatment of alcohol problems works better in those who like their curry hot or extra chilly sauce on their kebab.
This is because the spicy food and booze stimulate the brain’s opioid receptors, which trigger the release of naturally occurring endorphins.
“In the people who prefer spicy food, the opioid system is easily activated by drink or spicy [foods],” said Professor Kim, who was speaking in Australia as part of the annual Australian Neuroscience Society meeting.
He gave two groups of drinkers the drug naltrexone, which blocks the opioid reward system. The result was that the drug was effective with fiery food lovers, but not the ones with tender tastebuds.
“Naltrexone blocks the opioid system’s activation [which is] initiated by drinking; they do not feel the pleasure any more if they keep taking the medication,” he said.
Professor Kim has also found that rats bred to depend on alcohol drank less if they were injected with chilli’s active ingredient.