Putting out the fire – Efficacy of common beverages in reducing oral burn from capsaicin

Alissa A. Nolden, Gabrielle Lenart, John E. Hayes

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19 Scopus citations


Capsaicin is classically considered an irritant, due to the warming and burning sensations it elicits. Widespread consumption of chilis suggests many individuals enjoy this burn, but these sensations can be overwhelming if the burn is too intense. While substantial folklore exists on the ability of specific beverages to mitigate capsaicin burn, quantitative data to support these claims are generally lacking. Here, we systematically tested various beverages for their ability to reduce oral burn following consumption of capsaicin in tomato juice. Participants (n = 72, 42 women, 30 men)rated the burn of 30 mL of spicy tomato juice on a general Labeled Magnitude Scale (gLMS)immediately after swallowing, and again every 10 s for 2 min. On 7 of 8 trials, a test beverage (40 mL)was consumed after tomato juice was swallowed, including: skim milk, whole milk, seltzer water, Cherry Kool-Aid, non-alcoholic beer, cola, and water. Participants also answered questions regarding intake frequency and liking of spicy food. Initial burn of tomato juice alone was rated below “strong” but above “moderate” on a gLMS and continued to decay over the 2 min to a mean just above “weak”. All beverages significantly reduced the burn of the tomato juice. To quantify efficacy over time, area under the curve (AUC)values were calculated, and the largest reductions in burn were observed for whole milk, skim milk, and Kool-Aid. More work is needed to determine the mechanism(s)by which these beverages reduce burn (i.e., partitioning due to fat, binding by protein, or sucrose analgesia). Present data suggest milk is the best choice to mitigate burn, regardless of fat context, suggesting the presence of protein may be more relevant than lipid content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112557
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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