Recently, a 34-year-old man from New York participated in a hot pepper eating contest which landed him in the hospital. Soon after eating the world’s hottest pepper – Carolina Reaper – he developed pain in his neck that turned into a series of thunderclap headaches. The Carolina Reaper – red and gnarled with a small pointed tail – is officially the world’s hottest chilli pepper as recognised by the Guinness World Records. Carolina Reaper enters the record at 1.5 million Scovilles – the measurement scale of how spicy a chilli gets. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chilli peppers responsible for their unique hot flavour and is found in each type of pepper. Let’s understand what the several health benefits and side-effects of are of eating hot peppers.

Health Benefits

  • Vitamins & Minerals: Chilli peppers are high in various vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K1, vitamin A potassium and copper. However, since they are only eaten in small amounts, their contribution to the daily intake is very small.
  • Pain Relief: Capsaicin (main bioactive plant compound) in chilli peppers binds with pain receptors which are nerve endings that sense pain. This induces a burning sensation but does not actually cause any real burning injuries. It also makes these pain receptors insensitive to other forms of pain such as heartburn caused by acid reflux.
  • Weight Loss: Some evidence show that capsaicin can promote weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing fat burning. It may also reduce calorie intake and help in weight loss when combined with other healthy lifestyle strategies.


  • Burning Sensation: The substance responsible is capsaicin which binds with pain receptors and causes an intense burning sensation. In high amounts, it causes severe pain, inflammation, swelling and redness. For this reason, an extract of chilli peppers called ‘oleoresin capsicum’ is the main ingredient of pepper sprays.
  • Stomach Pain & Diarrhoea: This is more common in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Chili can temporarily worsen symptoms in those who are not used to eating it regularly. The symptoms may include abdominal pain, burning sensation in the gut, cramps and painful diarrhoea.
  • Cancer Risk: There is a mixed evidence on the effect of chilli on cancer. Observational studies in humans have linked chilli pepper consumption with increased risk of cancer especially in the gallbladder and stomach. These studies do not prove that chilli peppers are the only reason that may cause cancer.
  • Rectal Burning: As hot peppers progress through your digestive tract, they can continue to retain some of the burning ingredients that makes them hot in the fist place. This can cause a painful burning sensation in your rectum as you pass stools containing any type of hot pepper waste. It can cause discomfort for few days.
  • Skin Rash: Capsaicin works its fiery sensation even on your skin if the juice from red peppers absorbs slightly. This can turn your skin and cause the burning sensation or itch. Keep in mind to wear gloves when handling hot peppers to avoid any type of rash or itchiness.

Chilli peppers are a popular spice in many parts of the world, well-known for their hot, pungent flavour. We learned that capsaicin is associated with many health benefits as well as side-effects. In the end, it is important to keep in mind that the effects of hot chilli peppers vary from person to person and on the quantity. It may be healthy for many people, while those who experience digestive distress should avoid them.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 11, 2018 10:43 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website