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Are hot peppers medically dangerous?


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#1 C1ay

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Posted 19 April 2009 - 07:07 PM

I'm quite a fan of hot and spicy food. For several of the hot sauces I've bought I was required to sign a release of liability in order to complete my purchase. Even so I can find no evidence of anyone that has suffered any life threatening effects from consuming peppers or even some kind of permanent effect from. Are the liability waivers associated with some of these products more hype than fact?

#2 Buffy

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Posted 19 April 2009 - 07:39 PM

I think they're hype, but the lawyer for the restaurant is probably worried about the "scalding hot coffee at McDonald's" type suit where you get nailed for "pain and suffering."

There used to be a place in San Mateo called the Prince of Wales Pub (sadly, now closed, I will miss their homemade chili that was so popular that you had to reserve on Thursdays for lunch) which had a "Habanero Burger" that has habanero *paste* on it (not even really a sauce), and is thus wickedly hot. They make you sign a waiver, but if you eat one, they give you a bumpersticker that says "I ate a Habanero Burger at the Prince of Wales."

Sounds like good marketing to me.

People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins they wonder whether they are catching cold, :phones:
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#3 pamela

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Posted 19 April 2009 - 07:40 PM

Yikes! that's some hot sauce;)
the active ingredient is capsaicin

Because of the burning sensation caused by capsaicin when it comes in contact with mucous membranes, it is commonly used in food products to give them added spice or "heat" (pungency). In high concentrations capsaicin will also cause a burning effect on other sensitive areas of skin. The degree of heat found within a food is often measured on the Scoville scale.

Cooling and mechanical stimulation are the only proven methods to relieve the pain. The burning sensation will slowly fade away if no actions are taken.

It is common for people to experience pleasurable and even euphoriant effects from eating capsaicin-flavored foods. Folklore among self-described "pepperheads" attributes this to pain-stimulated release of endorphins, a different mechanism from the local receptor overload that makes capsaicin effective as a topical analgesic. In support of this theory, there is some evidence that the effect can be blocked by naloxone and other compounds that compete for receptor sites with endorphins and opiates.

it is also used medicinally in topical ointments to relieve arthritis pain
The waiver may be in response to this

Painful exposures to capsaicin-containing peppers are among the most common plant-related exposures presented to poison centers. They cause burning or stinging pain to the skin, and if ingested in large amounts by adults or small amounts by children, can produce nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and burning diarrhea. Eye exposure produces intense tearing, pain, conjunctivitis and blepharospasm

as far as hype goes

Ingestion of spicy food or ground jalapeño peppers does not cause mucosal erosions or other abnormalities. Some mucosal microbleeding has been found after eating red and black peppers, but there was no significant difference between aspirin (used as a control) and peppers. A study of Mexican patients found self-reported capsaicin intake levels associated with increased stomach cancer rates. A non-peer-reviewed study using county population and mortality data showed significantly higher rates for stomach and liver cancer in counties inhabited by groups with high consumption of capsaicin-rich foods than in matched control counties.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsaicin

#4 Racoon

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Posted 19 April 2009 - 07:44 PM

Hot peppers, and peppers in general are rich in Flavanoids.
Very good for you. :phones:

They are fruits after all. Fruits are good for you. (Its a fruit because they contain seeds within)

However, I can't eat Cayanne peppers because my stomach just can't take them and I end up Hiccuping for a 1/2 hour.

Liability waivers, such as those included in Spicy Hot Wing Eating Contests, is to protect the seller of said consumables in case someone has a bad reaction.

#5 Racoon

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Posted 19 April 2009 - 07:48 PM

Pepper Spray :phones: ..

Just a side not.. Insects rarely ever mess with hot pepper plants. I usually plant a few hot peppers to discourage unwelcome visitors.

And its not coincidence that Pepper spray derives its potencey from Cayenne peppers

#6 InfiniteNow

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Posted 19 April 2009 - 08:13 PM

I can think of a few immediate medical possibilities.

1. Risk of an allergic-type response whereby your esophagus closes and you can no longer breathe. I'm not sure an epi-pen would help with that either.

2. Nerve cell death


Now, some sources:


General Chemistry Online: Fire and Spice

High concentrations are toxic. Exposure is painful and even incapacitating. Capsaicin prevents nerve cells from communicating with each other by blocking the production of certain neurotransmitters; at high concentrations it destroys the cells.



It is an inflammatory, so obviously it's going to cause issues with eyes and that's what causes the suffocation effect. It's the same ingredient in pepper sprays, so it's not all too unlikely that hot sauce can have the same effect.

Consumer Basics Of Pepper Spray and Mace

Pepper spray differs from mace in that it is an inflammatory product, not an irritant. Pepper spray causes the eyes to swell and the victim to immediately close them. Pepper spray causes airway inflammation,




Interestingly, it doesn't seem to make worse issues with ulcers (and may even help them):

Disease, Condition, & Injury Fact Sheets | NYU Langone Medical Center

intuitively, it seems that hot peppers should be hard on the stomach. However, remember that hot peppers don’t actually damage tissues—they merely produce sensations similar to those caused by actual damage. Apparently, by depleting substance P in the stomach, they reduce sensations of discomfort. In fact, some evidence suggests that oral use of cayenne or capsaicin can actually protect the stomach against ulcers caused by anti-inflammatory drugs . 5,6,7 However, contrary to some reports, cayenne does not appear to be able to kill Helicobacter pylori , the stomach bacteria implicated as a major cause of ulcers. 9



#7 Boerseun

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 02:57 AM

I'm a bit of a chilli-nut myself, and run through hot sauces and peppers at quite a rate of speed.

If, like InfiniteNow mentioned above, you're not explicitly allergic to the hot stuff, then there are quite a few medical advantages to indulging in them!

For instance, cayenne pepper is one of the best and easiest remedies for high cholesterol!

Also, counter to what you might think, cayenne peppers are good for a host of other things, including ulcers, funnily enough.

So, to cut a long story short, I think those liability forms is more a cute marketing ploy than anything else.

#8 InfiniteNow

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 07:05 PM

If, like InfiniteNow mentioned above, you're not explicitly allergic to the hot stuff


Just to clarify, I didn't mean to refer specifically to allergies, just a similar response.

I'm thinking that since capsaicin is an inflammatory, it can cause swelling, and might cause the airway to close when too much is ingested. The whole, "OMG... I can't breathe" response...


Another potential issue which just occurred to me... If you get any on your fingers, be sure to wash your hands before using the mens room. :):eek_big:;)

#9 C1ay

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 08:12 PM

A pertinent clip... :)

YouTube - bhut jolokia the hottest pepper in the world burns guy face off

#10 freeztar

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 01:28 AM

People call me insane when they see me use hot sauce and peppers. :hihi:
I'm in Mexico right now and am *loving* all the different salsas down here. The hotter, the better. (to a point of course)

I've always thought (read) that they are very beneficial to health (if you can brave the pain the next day). :QuestionM

The last quote from Pamela causes me concern though. The only solace is that the study is not peer reviewed. Does anyone know anything more about this or other studies concerning stomach cancer?

#11 Nitack

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 03:50 PM

They are fruits after all. Fruits are good for you. (Its a fruit because they contain seeds within)


There is one fruit which has the seeds on the outside...

#12 freeztar

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 04:07 PM

Strawberries...

I'd still like to know if anyone has any more info on the potential link between peppers and stomach cancer.

It's hard to find a definitive answer on this. Take this blog post for example:

Excessive ingestion of hot peppers has been considered to be a risk factor for gastric and hepatic cancers. Chili and more specifically capsaicin consumption has been shown, however, to be protective against stomach cancer (Surh et al. 1998). In Mexico, where people heavily consume peppers, the frequency of gastric cancer is relatively low (Surh et al. 1998). In the United States, moreover, the rate of stomach cancer incidence has been declining for the past twenty years despite increased chili pepper consumption (Surh et al. 1998). Human gastric cancer may be caused by a number of factors: salty, smoked, or pickled foods, cigarette smoking, insufficient fruit and vegetable intake, and Helicobacter pylori. Capsaicin seems to have some inhibitory effects on carcinogenesis induced by chemical carcinogens such as vinyl carbamate (Surh et al. 1998). Treatment with capsaicin before exposure to gaseous chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide has been shown to protect against free radical-induced pulmonary damage in rats (Surh et al. 1998). Capsaicin is also observed to inhibit inflammatory responses related to tumor promotion (Surh et al. 1998).

All those references are to a 1998 article by Young-Joon Surh, Ph.D. In 2002, Dr. Surh wrote an editorial for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute about the latest research on capsaicum: More Than Spice: Capsaicin in Hot Chili Peppers Makes Tumor Cells Commit Suicide. He stated that “The role of capsaicin in carcinogenic processes is quite controversial. Although some investigators suspect that capsaicin is a carcinogen, co-carcinogen, or tumor promoter, others have reported that it has chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic effects.” After a detailed look at the current state of knowledge of how it affected cells, he concluded...

Hot Peppers - any link with gastric cancer? PSA Rising Prostate Cancer Blog

There appears to be several studies whose results contradict one another. :shrug:

#13 mynah

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 01:50 AM

There is one fruit which has the seeds on the outside...

At least two I can think of...

#14 Nitack

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 07:18 AM

At least two I can think of...


Strawberries were the one I knew of. What other fruit has the seeds on the outside?

#15 mynah

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 09:25 AM

Pineapples - though the ones we eat are usually not fertilised. I've seen a fertilised pineapple with grape-sized berries on the outside!

#16 Nitack

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 09:28 AM

Pineapples - though the ones we eat are usually not fertilised. I've seen a fertilised pineapple with grape-sized berries on the outside!


Holy Shcnikeys, I did not know that.

Edit: Um... I have been reading and what I can find says that pineapple seeds are only on the inside, but that it is rare to find a seeded pineapple because they are self-sterile (self pollination will not produce seeds) and only a hummingbird can pollinate them normally.

#17 freeztar

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 07:42 PM

Let's keep it on topic please. Feel free to start a new thread if you'd like to continue the fruit discussion.