Do hot foods damage your taste buds?

June 15, 1999

How you feelin'? Hot, hot, hot?

How about your mouth? Eaten any spicy food lately?

A member of our staff recently asked:

[cont. from lifestyle]

"I love hot, spicy food. But sometimes it burns so much I wonder if I'm doing some kind of damage to my taste buds. Any chance of that?"

When you think of hot, spicy food, hot peppers are among the first things that come to mind.

What makes them hot?

It's capsaicin, a whitish powder that is soluble in alcohol. It's not soluble in cold water, however, so that's why chugging water won't cool your burning mouth, according to information on The Chile-Heads home page at


Capsaicin won't damage taste buds, but it may desensitize them to hotter and hotter peppers, according to Danise Coon, a spokesperson at The Chile Pepper Institute. The Chile Pepper Institute is an international nonprofit organization devoted to education, research, publication and archiving information related to chili peppers. It's based at New Mexico State University in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

There is an amazing number of Internet sites about hot and spicy foods. Among them are, The Chile-Heads home page at Chile Pepper Magazine at, and The Chile Pepper Institute at

They include recipes, hot products to order, even online chats.

Hot peppers seem to have become a subculture.


- Kate Coleman, Staff Writer

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