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Could a Spicy Food Diet Reduce Pain Sensitivity?

December 1, 2019
Small clinical study finds improved pressure and cold-pain thresholds with taste stimulation.

A PPM Brief

In a unique clinical trial examining the long-term effect of spicy food on pain sensitivity, a group of anesthesiologists at the Army Medical University in China found that a long-term spicy diet may in fact reduce pain thresholds.

It is well known that spicy food can impact both physiological systems and diseases. This team of researchers specifically looked at whether spicy-food consumption could impact human basal pain sensitivity. With a group of 60 healthy young adults, the team used placebo and sweet stimulation as reference interventions. They evaluated pressure and cold-pain thresholds (before and after taste stimulation) as well as the participants’ frequency of spicy-food consumption.

Findings showed that both pressure and cold-pain thresholds increased during spicy stimulation compared to placebo stimulation (P < 0.05). “The increased thresholds remained, even when the taste stimulation residue was nearly eliminated (P < 0.05),” the researchers wrote in their published paper.  

 In terms of pain sensitivity related to pressure (10.0[2.1] vs 12.7[3.0]kg/cm2P < 0.001) and cold-pain (4.4[1.6] vs 6.2[2.7] seconds, P = 0.003) thresholds, they found that individuals who consumed spicy food 3 or more days a week had significantly lower thresholds than those who consumed spicy food less than 3 days a week.

The team repeated the study on an additional 100 subjects to validate their results. In the follow-up population, results were similar, with the frequency of spicy-food intake shown to be negatively associated with pressure (β = -0.218, P = 0.013) and cold-pain (β = -0.205, P = 0.035) thresholds. Study participants reported feeling an analgesic effect even after the spicy stimulation ended. Overall, the team concluded that a long-term spicy diet may in fact reduce the human basal pain threshold.



Last updated on: December 16, 2019
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