WHY is it painful to eat strong chili peppers?
Chili peppers contain the compound CAPSAICINE, which binds to a receptor named TRPV1 in nerve cells. This receptor is not only activated by capsaicine, but also by heat (temperatures about 43° C). Our sensory system is thus tricked to think that we eat or drink something very hot, which is painful.
This discovery is central to this years’ Nobel prize in physiology/medicine (awarded to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian), which acknowledges the discoveries of the receptors for the somatosensory systems. These systems translates real, physical signals like temperature, pressure or chemical substances into meaningful signals in the brain.
Watch this animated explainer to learn more