Why Do Spicy Foods Light Your Mouth on Fire?

03/13/2014 at 02:46 PM ET

Spicy Food

How come horseradish makes your nose burn? What’s the reason your mouth feels like it’s on fire when you eat Sriracha sauce?

You don’t need a science degree to understand the answers. A fascinating (and fun!) new animated video, “The Science of Spiciness,” by TedEd explains why our bodies react so extremely when we chew on hot, tongue-tingling foods.

If you’ve ever eaten something and started sweating or your heart started beating rapidly, it’s because your brain is reacting as if your body is actually on fire! Turns out that horseradish is made of small molecules that easily float up to your sinuses, burning your nose; chili peppers are made up of larger molecules that mostly stay in — and flame up — your mouth.

According to the video, there’s a theory going around that people who regularly eat hot fare enjoy the ensuing thrill — the same kind they get from riding a rollercoaster — even if the immediate sensation is hard to digest. These folks also are more likely to seek out other activities that give them an adrenaline rush, like gambling.

Watch the short video here. Then next time you bite down on a spicy jalapeño, you’ll understand why your mouth feels like a four-alarm blaze.

—Nancy Mattia

FILED UNDER: Food , Health

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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leslie on

do we really have to ask such stupid questions? we have honestly been reduced to this idiocy? Can’t we ask something like, how can we get these wonderful veggies and fruits to people who can’t afford or reach them??? Or, why do only idiots read People these days? Your writers are off the pulse. You seem to have redirected your audience from “regular” People to “moronic” People. Done with this mag after 25 years, the stupidity you actually think intelligent people read is astounding.
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The way I see it, the gaming scene pretty much divides into PC gaming and console gaming. When it comes to capabilities to appear out for, there needs to be the alternative to switch among aircrafts, adjust weather, wind and environment, and decide on the country you wish to fly in. There are plenty of real-time and turn-based strategy games, but few transpire in far-off galaxies and star systems.
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