In our article Why do chillies burn, we explained how a molecule called capsaicin is responsible for the burning sensation felt when chillies are ingested. However, we're not all equal when it comes to this sensation. While some people feel like they're literally bursting into flames when they taste our Alegria hot sauce, others are more tolerant of the bite of its Naga Jolokia (aka Ghost Pepper) pepper. Can we conclude whether there is a genetic or cultural factor? Find out more below!

     Why are some people more resistant to chillies?

     Genetics play a role in pepper resistance. The sensitivity of our tongue's receptors to capsaicin is not the same from one person to another. But this tolerance is mainly due to our eating habits, even before we're born. If a pregnant woman regularly consumes hot peppers, her infant is more likely to adopt habits and a certain resistance. What's more, regular consumption of chillies increases resistance to spicy foods. For example, in countries where chillies play a central role in the diet, such as India or Mexico, the sensation associated with eating chillies is not the same.


Piments oiseaux et habaneros



     According to Frédéric Rosa and Brigitte Boyer, two Inserm researchers, our tolerance to hot pepper is above all a matter of genetics. An identified gene, Egr-1, hereditarily transmitted and associated with the gustatory areas of the brain, is thought to play a predominant role in the degree of irritation experienced when eating spices.

...or cultural factor?

     Dr. Bruce Bryant of the Monell Chemincal Senses Center bases his theory on the trigeminal system. The trigeminal system controls spicy sensations and sends messages related to the pain or irritation caused by capsaicin in chillies. As a result, the researcher explains that tolerance to spices is more the result of a habit, linked to culture or habituation from an early age.


To find out more, we recommend :


  • Sommes-nous tous égaux face au piment, C Jamy les extraits, France Télévisions 
  • Le corps possède-t-il la faculté de s’habituer à la nourriture épicée ?,, le 20/02/2023

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