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spice

el-yucateco-green-lg I’ve been traveling a lot this summer. So I’ve had to have a “go-to” hot sauce that I can have on my person. A lot of restaurants have the standard trio of Sriracha, Tabasco, and Tapatio (and like free wi-fi, the higher end restaurants are the least stocked with the sauce). They’re serviceable, but they are to hot sauce what Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King, are to hamburgers. So often I try and make it to a market with a large Mexican food section and see if there’s anything that is palatable. The worst situations you encounter are when you go into a Food Co-op, because some of the buyers seem to think that carrot juice with a tincture of paprika will suffice as long as it is organic and locally sourced. Well, I settled on El Yucateco Green Habanero Hot Sauce for this trip. I’ve had it before, and it’s not the most distinctive in flavor, but I’d give it a straight B. It has a kick, it doesn’t have conflicting tastes, and the aftertaste doesn’t linger excessively.

Rock_Rousey_WM31 So as you might know, I like my hot sauce. I’m the Ronda Rousey of hot sauce consumption. If you think you can handle it, bring it. I’ll be at ASHG 2015 in Baltimore in a few months. I threw down the gauntlet. I’m game if anyone who wants to challenge me in downing sauce or pepper, with the proviso that they can’t be double null on TRPV1. The “puny human” David Mittleman rashly took up my challenge. We’ll see if he’s all talk.

I bring up the sauce because the media is going crazy over a new paper. Here’s The New York Times, Eating Spicy Food Linked to a Longer Life:

Study participants were enrolled between 2004 and 2008 in a large Chinese health study, and researchers followed them for an average of more than seven years, recording 20,224 deaths. The study is in BMJ.

After controlling for family medical history, age, education, diabetes, smoking and many other variables, the researchers found that compared with eating hot food, mainly chili peppers, less than once a week, having it once or twice a week resulted in a 10 percent reduced overall risk for death. Consuming spicy food six to seven times a week reduced the risk by 14 percent.

This is a Chinese study. The sample sizes are large. I went to the original paper. It’s ungated, read it, Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study. I wanted to check out how robust this result was. Well, look at the figure at the top of this post. I wouldn’t say it’s a slam-dunk. The effect is weak in some subgroups, and goes away for those who drink. But the general trend is clear. There does seem to be a negative correlation between mortality and higher spice consumption across many subpopulations. They claim to have controlled for a lot of demographic variables, and I sort of trust them. But it’s really nice to see this sort of figure that lays it all out.

I’m not sure that they really smoked out all the correlations. After all, those who like the taste of spice could simply be superior human beings. How can you control for that confound? But in any case, I did stumble on this interesting related paper, Mice That Feel Less Pain Live Longer:

To investigate further, researchers from the University of California (UC), Berkeley, bred mice without a pain receptor called TRPV1. Found in the skin, nerves, and joints, it’s known to be activated by the spicy compound found in chili peppers, known as capsaicin. (When you feel like your mouth is burning after eating a jalapeño, that’s TRPV1 at work.) Surprisingly, the mice without TRPV1 lived on average 14% longer than their normal counterparts, the team reports today in Cell. (Meanwhile, calorie restriction—another popular way of lengthening mouse lifespans—can make them live up to 40% longer.) When the TRPV1-less mice got old, they still showed signs of fast, youthful metabolisms. Their bodies continued to quickly clear sugar from the blood—a trait called glucose tolerance that usually declines with age—and they burned more calories during exercise than regular elderly mice.

…Already, diets rich in capsaicin have been linked to lower incidences of diabetes and metabolic problems in humans, he notes. So might spicy foods be a way of extending life? Maybe, Dillin says, but you’d have to eat a lot of them over a long period of time. “Prolonged exposure to capsaicin can actually kill the neuron” that transmits signals from TRPV1, he explains. Knocking out those signals might mimic the effects of being born without TRPV1 in the first place and, therefore, could lead to a longer life.

Yes, a friend of mine with a neuroscience background told me he suspected that I’ve knocked out all the neurons that handle signals from TRPV1. The 14% mortality reduction is interesting, because it’s in the same range as the human study above. But, you aren’t going to live 40% longer if you engage in calorie restriction. There’s only so much you can extrapolate from mice.

People have been worried and curious about my spice consumption for years. When people ask if there’s a reason I put this stuff in my mouth my response is straightforward: it tastes good.

620px-Awadhi_prawns When I was a kid shrimp was my favorite food. I’m Bengali at least to that extent. Today shrimp is still my favorite food (and I can report that the preference is heritable). But, shrimp is high in cholesterol. When I was growing up people were scared of cholesterol and fat. Doctors advised my mom to reduce our shrimp intake. It really made me sad, and I’m not a particularly food obsessed person. Give me shrimp, hot sauce, and some fruit, and I’m good.

Well, you know by now that the guidelines against dietary cholesterol intake have been pretty much dropped. Turns out that dietary intake is irrelevant for most people. And now there’s this: Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis:

Results: Forty studies (17 cohorts in 19 publications with 361,923 subjects and 19 trials in 21 publications with 632 subjects) published between 1979 and 2013 were eligible for review. Dietary cholesterol was not statistically significantly associated with any coronary artery disease (4 cohorts; no summary RR), ischemic stroke (4 cohorts; summary RR: 1.13; 95% CI: 0.99, 1.28), or hemorrhagic stroke (3 cohorts; summary RR: 1.09; 95% CI: 0.79, 1.50). Dietary cholesterol statistically significantly increased both serum total cholesterol (17 trials; net change: 11.2 mg/dL; 95% CI: 6.4, 15.9) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (14 trials; net change: 6.7 mg/dL; 95% CI: 1.7, 11.7). Increases in LDL cholesterol were no longer statistically significant when intervention doses exceeded 900 mg/d. Dietary cholesterol also statistically significantly increased serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (13 trials; net change: 3.2 mg/dL; 95% CI: 0.9, 9.7) and the LDL to high-density lipoprotein ratio (5 trials; net change: 0.2; 95% CI: 0.0, 0.3). Dietary cholesterol did not statistically significantly change serum triglycerides or very-low-density lipoprotein concentrations.

Nutritional science in general doesn’t kill directly. Perhaps some people have type II diabetes because of the fat fear years when they gorged on Snackwells. But the biggest impact is that overreaction, and to a great extent craven behavior in the face of politicians looking for The Answer, results in reduced quality of life for tens millions. That matters. You sure as hell are going to get more skepticism from me about how something that I put in my mouth is good or bad from me now.

Do I hope that eating a lot of spice is healthy for me? Yes. Do I believe that this is a true result that will hold over time? Hell if I know. I’m just going to continue eating tasty food. End of story.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Nutrition 
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  1. It’s a very interesting hypothesis. However, I think it’s hard to make dietary recommendations about spice in general as most of us (perhaps Razib excluded) don’t eat pure spices/chilli. If chilli made very unhealthy foods more addictive, it could have detrimental effects. My guess is that spicy foods eaten in China have very different health effects to spicy foods eaten in the USA, for example.

  2. I love spicy food. Indian/Pakistani/Nepali is actually my favorite culinary group.

    Unfortunately, my stomach is not nearly so partial to it. Jalfrezi is pretty much as high as I can go and that’s with tons of rice. Vindaloo or Achar or anything beyond Jalfrezi in general I just have to avoid. Masochism is enjoyable on only one end of the digestive tract.

    My mom’s boundaries are similar to mine. Dad’s are extremely low – nothing beyond mild Tikka Masala – and in fact he regards us as hot freaks.

    I do wonder to what extent spice tolerance is just cultural. Lots of older people from the USSR – well, meat-and-potatoes Slavs, anyway – are pretty much like my dad. In my observations, spice tolerance increases amongst the younger generations alongside with exposure to international cuisines (Korean in particular is very popular), as well of course as Russians who live abroad from a young age. Still, I can only shake my head in bewilderment at resilient specimens such as my onetime Indian flatmates, or Razib for that matter. Just as my dad does likewise in respect to myself.

    So I’m not going to accept your challenge, Razib. How about a drinking contest instead? That I’d be down with even if it doesn’t do near as much for your health as hot spices. 😉

    • Replies: @anonymous coward
    @Anatoly Karlin


    Lots of older people from the USSR – well, meat-and-potatoes Slavs, anyway – are pretty much like my dad.
     
    Compared to Western Europe, Russians eat more spicy food and spice is much more available in Russia.

    It's just that Russians are prejudiced towards spice -- it's considered to be very unhealthy food according to traditional Russian culinary thought. (There's lots and lots of very involved traditional beliefs about "eating properly" in Russia.)

    Replies: @Anatoly Karlin

  3. Kid Curry, the fastest Tabasco in the West.

  4. could simply be superior human beings

    And some commenters intimate that Razib does not have a well-developed sense of humor.

    • Replies: @Twinkie
    @iffen


    And some commenters intimate that Razib does not have a well-developed sense of humor.
     
    Well, some folks say that self-deprecating humor is the highest form of humor.
  5. The alcohol interaction is interesting. The paper discusses it:

    Intriguingly, we found that the inverse association was stronger in those who did not than did drink alcohol. Alcohol consumption has been related to an increased risk of mortality in some but not all previous studies. Even though moderate alcohol consumption has been related to a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, moderately high alcohol consumption may increase energy intake and has been associated with increased mortality. In addition, alcohol intake also affects the metabolism of gut microbiota. Even though the precise mechanism remains unclear, the interaction between spicy foods and alcohol intake is biologically possible. We acknowledge that disease status might affect both alcohol and spicy food intakes, and we excluded participants with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or stroke at baseline from our analyses. Further investigations are warranted to validate our findings and explore the mechanisms.

    The graphic’s categories were derived from “alcohol consumption (non-drinker, occasional drinker, former drinker, or regular drinker).” (I did not see a definition for “regular drinker.” ) It looks like they simplified this to “alcohol consumption (regular drinker, or not)”. It would be interesting to see the hazard ratios split out for the three groups comprising not a regular drinker. I am particularly interested in this because most health studies I have seen find non-drinkers at increased risk.

    One other thing that jumps out from the error bars is that apparently not many Chinese women smoke or drink (confirmed by the demographic table for the study population).

  6. I do wonder if this has something to do with why Latinos in the U.S. live slightly longer than non-Hispanic whites, despite overall lower socio-economic status? The effect seems to be strongest on those born abroad, which would seem to suggest something related to an un-assimilated lifestyle plays a role.

    AFAIK there has been no breakdown of life-expectancy of Latinos by national origin. If data could show Mexicans have significantly higher life expectancy than say Puerto Ricans, who (IIRC) do not have particularly spicy food, it would be quite suggestive.

    • Replies: @Bryan Bell
    @Karl Zimmerman

    Mexican hispanics DO have higher life expectancy than Puerto Rican hispanics.

    Look at hispanic mortality rates in California/Texas vs New York. New York hispanics which are majority Puerto Rican more closely follow black mortality rates.

    It's not surprising since Puerto Rican's have significant black ancestry.

  7. A recurring fantasy of mine is to get a bunch of scientific nutritionists into a room and ask them what results they agree on. That’s not to suggest it’s a bad discipline, only that I don’t know much about it. Specialists in any field will vehemently disagree about lots of things, but all of them agree on a core basic set of scientific facts (energy is conserved; life is cellular; humans evolved; electron transport chain yields ATP). I just want to know what nutrition facts are uncontroversial. They must exist.

  8. Dear Razib,

    Do you have any thoughts about herbal remedies? Cayenne pepper is known to heal blood vessels and to prevent bleeding. (Dr. John Christopher. School of Natural Healing, Provo, Utah 1977, pages 406-413). Aspirin, while being a blood thinner, has serious side effects resulting in ulceration and bleeding of blood vessel.

    Enjoyed reading this post. I recently discovered the Unz website and it has many interesting articles.

    • Replies: @Sean
    @Alvin

    Spices ect probably are the plants' way to discourage hungry animals.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/toxic-chemicals-in-fruits-and-vegetables-are-what-give-them-their-health-benefits/

  9. jb says:

    If I were to go back to the year 1900, I could tell the people there all kinds of marvelous things about modern physics, and math, and biology, and many other fields. But if I were pressed to say something about nutrition, it would have to be something lame, like “Well, we still have fads, and the conventional wisdom has changed repeatedly over the years, and we still don’t know in any detail what the best diet is, or if there even is one.” Not all that much progress!

    (I’m not big on spices myself. I can sort of manage the food in a typical Indian restaurant, but there was a local Sri Lankan restaurant I used to go to with friends where I never did succeed in finding a main course I could eat without serious regrets).

  10. @Karl Zimmerman
    I do wonder if this has something to do with why Latinos in the U.S. live slightly longer than non-Hispanic whites, despite overall lower socio-economic status? The effect seems to be strongest on those born abroad, which would seem to suggest something related to an un-assimilated lifestyle plays a role.

    AFAIK there has been no breakdown of life-expectancy of Latinos by national origin. If data could show Mexicans have significantly higher life expectancy than say Puerto Ricans, who (IIRC) do not have particularly spicy food, it would be quite suggestive.

    Replies: @Bryan Bell

    Mexican hispanics DO have higher life expectancy than Puerto Rican hispanics.

    Look at hispanic mortality rates in California/Texas vs New York. New York hispanics which are majority Puerto Rican more closely follow black mortality rates.

    It’s not surprising since Puerto Rican’s have significant black ancestry.

  11. People who use hot sauce on their food tend to come from cultures where they eat more vegetables in their diet and they get more physical exercise in the course of their working lives. I suspect this may be a significant factor in the longer life equation.

  12. Spice… extending life, and no Dune reference? Sad.

    • Replies: @Twinkie
    @Dave Pinsen


    Spice… extending life, and no Dune reference? Sad.
     
    Well, there is this: https://evolution-institute.org/blog/to-overthrow-an-empire/

    I used to tell my wife (who prefers more bland food than I do as she is a product of the Midwest) that I completely get why the Europeans conquered a huge colonial empire in search of inexpensive spice. I mean, if I had to eat meat and potatoes everyday with just salt, I'd also go nuts, get on a ship, navigate to terra incognita, kill a bunch of natives, and take their spices (and gold, too, if they had any).

    Imagine a world in which black pepper costs more than its weight in gold (but I suppose gold is not nearly as tasty, so the valuation make sense). That's a tragic world, in my view.
  13. I eat 2-3 very spicy chipotle peppers every single day at 11:30 AM, aside from any other things I have for lunch.

    I don’t know if I’ll live longer, but it sure keeps me ‘regular’ and that means I save about an hour on the toilet every week. So, there’s that. 2 more days a year. Half a year over my lifetime maybe.

  14. @Alvin
    Dear Razib,

    Do you have any thoughts about herbal remedies? Cayenne pepper is known to heal blood vessels and to prevent bleeding. (Dr. John Christopher. School of Natural Healing, Provo, Utah 1977, pages 406-413). Aspirin, while being a blood thinner, has serious side effects resulting in ulceration and bleeding of blood vessel.

    Enjoyed reading this post. I recently discovered the Unz website and it has many interesting articles.

    Replies: @Sean

  15. I used to be able to eat all that hot spicy food and I loved to break out in a sweat from it . No more , now I can’t even eat my dhal and rice with hot mango pickle w/o getting the GERD . Lucky you young fella’ . I wonder if it will change for you as well when you get older .

  16. I remember when I used to do that Snackwell thing. Now I avoid sugar.

  17. Simply expo, spices are insect pesticides, but on larger mammals trigger an immune response that promotes body repair!

  18. When I was younger (say from age 13 to age 35), I absolutely loved spicy food of all kinds. I just loved the taste, the supposed endorphin rush, and so on. I hated bland food. I ate gobs of Habanero chilies. I loved eating hot chicken wings laced with “suicide” type sauce, the mere scent of which made other people retch. My favorite Chinese food was Sichuanese.

    But then two things interfered with my love of spices: children and aging.

    Although my kids love relatively spicy food, I still couldn’t have very spicy food with them when they were little. So for good ten years or so, I ate a lot of bland food. After that I noted that my spice tolerance went down quite a bit.

    Worse was my stomach as I aged. Particularly when mixed with alcohol (who doesn’t love a good Weissbier, Gewuerztraminer or Japanese plum wine with spicy food?), very spicy food would kick up my heartburn, one of which was so extreme that my wife thought I was having a heart attack. I still love spicy food, but I now make sure to take heartburn medication beforehand. Without the medication, I would probably now not go any more spicy than a couple packets of Texas Pete sauce at Chick-fil-A.

    My favorite sauces were always some variation of mango mixed with habanero. I just love that contrast of sweet and spicy, which seems to bring out more intensely each flavor.

    Now my favorite chili is probably the sweet New Mexico green chile, sometimes called Hatch chile. I can eat that still in large quantities without heartburn. Sometimes aging is really crummy.

  19. @iffen

    could simply be superior human beings
     
    And some commenters intimate that Razib does not have a well-developed sense of humor.

    Replies: @Twinkie

    And some commenters intimate that Razib does not have a well-developed sense of humor.

    Well, some folks say that self-deprecating humor is the highest form of humor.

  20. @Dave Pinsen
    Spice... extending life, and no Dune reference? Sad.

    Replies: @Twinkie

    Spice… extending life, and no Dune reference? Sad.

    Well, there is this: https://evolution-institute.org/blog/to-overthrow-an-empire/

    I used to tell my wife (who prefers more bland food than I do as she is a product of the Midwest) that I completely get why the Europeans conquered a huge colonial empire in search of inexpensive spice. I mean, if I had to eat meat and potatoes everyday with just salt, I’d also go nuts, get on a ship, navigate to terra incognita, kill a bunch of natives, and take their spices (and gold, too, if they had any).

    Imagine a world in which black pepper costs more than its weight in gold (but I suppose gold is not nearly as tasty, so the valuation make sense). That’s a tragic world, in my view.

  21. Interesting. I’m big on spices. Spices disabling pain receptors in joints enabling you to stay more physically active, younger and healthier seems plausible.

    But on the topic of eating spicy while traveling, I’m disappointed that you didn’t mention having The Bomb seized by airport security. As a person of color.

  22. @Anatoly Karlin
    I love spicy food. Indian/Pakistani/Nepali is actually my favorite culinary group.

    Unfortunately, my stomach is not nearly so partial to it. Jalfrezi is pretty much as high as I can go and that's with tons of rice. Vindaloo or Achar or anything beyond Jalfrezi in general I just have to avoid. Masochism is enjoyable on only one end of the digestive tract.

    My mom's boundaries are similar to mine. Dad's are extremely low - nothing beyond mild Tikka Masala - and in fact he regards us as hot freaks.

    I do wonder to what extent spice tolerance is just cultural. Lots of older people from the USSR - well, meat-and-potatoes Slavs, anyway - are pretty much like my dad. In my observations, spice tolerance increases amongst the younger generations alongside with exposure to international cuisines (Korean in particular is very popular), as well of course as Russians who live abroad from a young age. Still, I can only shake my head in bewilderment at resilient specimens such as my onetime Indian flatmates, or Razib for that matter. Just as my dad does likewise in respect to myself.

    So I'm not going to accept your challenge, Razib. How about a drinking contest instead? That I'd be down with even if it doesn't do near as much for your health as hot spices. ;)

    Replies: @anonymous coward

    Lots of older people from the USSR – well, meat-and-potatoes Slavs, anyway – are pretty much like my dad.

    Compared to Western Europe, Russians eat more spicy food and spice is much more available in Russia.

    It’s just that Russians are prejudiced towards spice — it’s considered to be very unhealthy food according to traditional Russian culinary thought. (There’s lots and lots of very involved traditional beliefs about “eating properly” in Russia.)

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    @anonymous coward

    As in *hot* spices? If so is news to me. I literally can't think of anything spicier than garlic or black pepper that is native to Russian cuisine.

    Even plov, the Central Asian rice/meat medley somewhat similar to (modestly spicy) Indian biriyani, isn't spicy.

    The only actually spicy foods I can think of belongs to Georgian cuisine. The most prominent example of that is Adzhika sauce, which is very loosely equivalent to salsa. It's hardly an everyday food or anything close to that for 99% of Russians.

  23. I would love to see a color-keyed map of the Subcontinent by spiciness factor.

    Naively, one would think that the hotter a place is, the spicier the food. But I’ve been told that people in Chennai actually eat milder fare than some more northerly areas in India.

    • Replies: @Numinous
    @Anonymous


    Naively, one would think that the hotter a place is, the spicier the food. But I’ve been told that people in Chennai actually eat milder fare than some more northerly areas in India.
     
    Not just compared to northern India, but Tamil cuisine is blander than Telugu cuisine (Telugu people being the immediate northern neighbors of the Tamil people), both in my personal experience and from hearsay. Don't quote me on this, but Telugu cuisine might be hands down the spiciest in the subcontinent.

    As for heat, the north has a real winter season from November to February. But for the rest of the year, heat doesn't really vary much with latitude. In fact, the Gangetic plain and the desert to its west are probably hotter on average than the peninsula for 8 months of the year.

    Replies: @dravid

  24. @Anonymous
    I would love to see a color-keyed map of the Subcontinent by spiciness factor.

    Naively, one would think that the hotter a place is, the spicier the food. But I've been told that people in Chennai actually eat milder fare than some more northerly areas in India.

    Replies: @Numinous

    Naively, one would think that the hotter a place is, the spicier the food. But I’ve been told that people in Chennai actually eat milder fare than some more northerly areas in India.

    Not just compared to northern India, but Tamil cuisine is blander than Telugu cuisine (Telugu people being the immediate northern neighbors of the Tamil people), both in my personal experience and from hearsay. Don’t quote me on this, but Telugu cuisine might be hands down the spiciest in the subcontinent.

    As for heat, the north has a real winter season from November to February. But for the rest of the year, heat doesn’t really vary much with latitude. In fact, the Gangetic plain and the desert to its west are probably hotter on average than the peninsula for 8 months of the year.

    • Replies: @dravid
    @Numinous


    Don’t quote me on this, but Telugu cuisine might be hands down the spiciest in the subcontinent.
     
    Had to quote you =P I think Sri Lankan cuisine is the spiciest. Go to Staten Island.

    Manikavum. It dawned on me these guys confused you with me. Even tho ur atleast a decade older. Hope the zebRa wasn't naggy/needy/annoying. You have no choice; you're now a member of the greater brown mafia. We'll prolly meet IRL eventually. It can be a small world.

    I think Popeye confused me for an intense marxist elsewhere lol (Also Nick Szabo / Nakamoto Satoshi I'm not brownboy; your readership has minimal troll opportunity == waste of my precious time) And no folks I'm not the nearest token minority.
  25. Huge pepper freak here. In my fifties now, and eating more peppers than ever. It’s true though, that they bother you a lot less if you eat them regularly. Two or three times a day is good.

    Have you tried Cholula Chile Garlic? It’s not very hot but at least it’s different and interesting. I need a variety of sauces. Still, the majority of the time I just use my own smoked peppers. Chilacas, serranos, and habaneros, mostly. Not real big on jalapeños, but they do make a good salsa when smoked. Preparation is the key to making a good pepper sauce. Smoking them allows you to peel the skin off, which has a bitter flavor. The seeds, too, have a bitter acrid flavor, remove them. Done right, the sauce shouldn’t have a hot burning feel in the mouth, but instead will make your lips start to tingle after a few minutes, like they’re going numb. Then the room starts to get hot. Then the sweating starts, followed by the crying, and if it’s really hot, snot running out of your nose. But that won’t bother you much in the midst of a pepper euphoria.

    Fruit Salsa
    1 part fresh pineapple (for God’s sake don’t use some canned crap)
    1 part chopped kiwi
    1 part chopped red bell pepper

    Chop it all into approx 3/8 cubes
    Add as much smoked habanero as you can hack, peeled, deseeded, and minced into a paste (don’t touch the peppers, maneuver them with plasticware)
    Squeeze in enough fresh lime juice to balance the sweetness.
    Smoked salt to taste.
    A tiny pinch of cinnamon is optional.

    Put it on something (like fish) if you insist on standing on ceremony, but I just eat it with a spoon.

    Does not keep well.

  26. Have you tried the yucateco xxxtra hot? It’s brown in colour instead and packs a bit more capsaicin heat and is also fruitier in flavour (that habanero sort of fruitiness). It’s my go to all-rounder hot sauce, I think you may also like it more than the green one.

  27. @Numinous
    @Anonymous


    Naively, one would think that the hotter a place is, the spicier the food. But I’ve been told that people in Chennai actually eat milder fare than some more northerly areas in India.
     
    Not just compared to northern India, but Tamil cuisine is blander than Telugu cuisine (Telugu people being the immediate northern neighbors of the Tamil people), both in my personal experience and from hearsay. Don't quote me on this, but Telugu cuisine might be hands down the spiciest in the subcontinent.

    As for heat, the north has a real winter season from November to February. But for the rest of the year, heat doesn't really vary much with latitude. In fact, the Gangetic plain and the desert to its west are probably hotter on average than the peninsula for 8 months of the year.

    Replies: @dravid

    Don’t quote me on this, but Telugu cuisine might be hands down the spiciest in the subcontinent.

    Had to quote you =P I think Sri Lankan cuisine is the spiciest. Go to Staten Island.

    Manikavum. It dawned on me these guys confused you with me. Even tho ur atleast a decade older. Hope the zebRa wasn’t naggy/needy/annoying. You have no choice; you’re now a member of the greater brown mafia. We’ll prolly meet IRL eventually. It can be a small world.

    I think Popeye confused me for an intense marxist elsewhere lol (Also Nick Szabo / Nakamoto Satoshi I’m not brownboy; your readership has minimal troll opportunity == waste of my precious time) And no folks I’m not the nearest token minority.

  28. Could it just be that preference for spice is linked to openness, which is linked to intelligence, which is linked to longevity?

  29. @anonymous coward
    @Anatoly Karlin


    Lots of older people from the USSR – well, meat-and-potatoes Slavs, anyway – are pretty much like my dad.
     
    Compared to Western Europe, Russians eat more spicy food and spice is much more available in Russia.

    It's just that Russians are prejudiced towards spice -- it's considered to be very unhealthy food according to traditional Russian culinary thought. (There's lots and lots of very involved traditional beliefs about "eating properly" in Russia.)

    Replies: @Anatoly Karlin

    As in *hot* spices? If so is news to me. I literally can’t think of anything spicier than garlic or black pepper that is native to Russian cuisine.

    Even plov, the Central Asian rice/meat medley somewhat similar to (modestly spicy) Indian biriyani, isn’t spicy.

    The only actually spicy foods I can think of belongs to Georgian cuisine. The most prominent example of that is Adzhika sauce, which is very loosely equivalent to salsa. It’s hardly an everyday food or anything close to that for 99% of Russians.

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