It looks like manly men may have a thing for spicy food.
That’s according to a study by researchers from France’s University of Grenoble, which found a link between higher levels of testosterone and a desire to consume spicy food.
According to Time, 114 male subjects were offered mashed potatoes and were free to add spicy pepper sauce and salt to their portion.
“Researchers saw a clear correlation between higher hot sauce usage and higher levels of testosterone […] found in the saliva of the men,” Time says, though the exact link between higher T levels and the enjoyment of capsaicin, the spicy compound in the sauce, is unknown.
One of the study’s authors, Laurent Begue, suggested to The Telegraph that the findings make sense, given testosterone’s link with risky behaviour, and that “In this case, it applies to risk-taking in taste.”
He went on to add that “It is also possible that the regular consumption of spicy food contributes to increasing testosterone levels,” though he makes clear that that conclusion has not yet been proven in humans.
Quartz points to a 2013 study that found that exact thing in mice. In that experiment, mice exposed to capsaicin had more testosterone than mice that did not.
As for explaining the link for humans, it points to cultural “manliness” pressure and even the colour of the sauce as possible explanations for why men with higher testosterone might prefer more spice.
According to the article, “A 2013 study found that men who preferred red, the color of the sauce used in this study, tended to have higher testosterone than those who liked blue.”
Typically found in peppers, Capsaicin has been of medical interest for some time. A 2012 ABC News article describes a few of its medical uses, including endorphin-boosting properties, as well as usefulness in combating symptoms of arthritis, psoriasis, and even potentially prostate cancer.
A piece published by The National Post also mentions that preliminary animal testing suggests it may be of use in managing diabetes.