Chilies have been a hot topic in nutritional research for years now and, having acquired a penchant for them since first landing at Don Muang International Airport in 1979, I like to keep up with the latest chili news.
Scientific research is an expensive endeavor and is substantially grant-driven in subjects where potential profitability is ephemeral. Nevertheless, it is quite surprising to see how spicy research can be.
For example, a 2019 paper from the journal Nutrients tracked a cohort of adults for 15 years in China to determine how high levels of chili consumption affected cognitive function.
Lo and behold, Chinese who were crazy about peppers were literally losing their minds. You might be wondering where the profit was in this expensive undertaking, but the Chinese are the exception where money is concerned, not the rule.
Memory was impacted the most, and it made no difference whether the forgetful were male or female. However, obesity lessened the effects somewhat.
Interestingly, to qualify for high chili intake, the lower limit was set at 50 grams a day, so most of us can take this study with a grain of salt.
The paper made note that previous animal studies were inconclusive, thus researchers were reasonably proud of their achievement.
It did occur to me that making an animal consume 50 grams of chilis a day might be tricky business.
Since research could only be conducted with creatures endowed with higher intelligence, one might expect a large cohort of volunteers could have been difficult to enroll.
But such is the popularity of Hunan cuisine in China that researchers quickly signed up 4,582 volunteers. Bottom line: You are what you eat. Just keep the prik kee noo under 50 grams a day and you won’t set your brain on fire.