Some like it hot: Testosterone predicts laboratory eating behavior of spicy food

Abstract: In the present study, we analyzed the relationship between eating behavior of spicy food and endogenous testosterone. Participants included 114 males between the ages of 18 and 44 recruited from the community. They were asked to indicate their preferences regarding spicy food and were then asked to season a sample of mashed potatoes with pepper sauce and salt (control substance) prior to evaluating the spiciness of the meal. A positive correlation was observed between endogenous salivary testosterone and the quantity of hot sauce individuals voluntarily and spontaneously consumed with a meal served as part of a laboratory task. In contrast, significant correlations were not observed between testosterone and behavioral preference for salty foods. This study suggests that behavioral preference for spicy food among men is related to endogenous testosterone levels.


Alex’s Notes: A wide range of factors, including genetic, physiological, psychological and social forces, influence the liking and consumption of capsaicin-containing food. Thus, French researchers thought it was a good use of money to fund a study that investigates the spice-testosterone connection.

They recruited 114 males aged between 18-44 years (average 29 years) that encompassed a diverse range of occupational and educational levels. Between 9am and 6pm the participants ate about 150g of mashed potatoes with 50 vials of 1.5mL Tobasco sauce and 80 sachets of salt (2g each). They also had to rate how much they liked spicy and salty foods before eating, and also some filler questions about the meal. Saliva was collected to determine testosterone levels.

As it turns out, salivary testosterone was significantly correlated to the number of spicy doses participants spontaneously placed in their meals and their evaluation of the spiciness of the meal after consumption. Interestingly, age was unrelated to the concentration of salivary testosterone, but was related to the number of spicy doses selected. Thus, the researchers controlled for age, and still found a significant association between testosterone and the number of spicy doses used during the meal. The association actually became marginally stronger as well. There weren’t any associations with salt.

So how much do you like spicy food? Just kidding, that question is dumb. Before you go thinking you must have rock bottom or sky high testosterone levels based on taste preferences, re-read my first sentence, and also note that the association was low at r=0.32 (on a scale of zero to one, with one indicating a perfect association).


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