What is the best drink to reduce burn from chili peppers?

Who does not enjoy a platter of spicy buffalo wings? Have you ever ordered Buffalo wings especially spicy and sometimes find them to be too “hot”? According to Penn State researchers choose milk to reduce the burn, and it does not matter if it is whole or skim milk.

The research originated as an effort by the Sensory Evaluation Center in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences to identify a beverage to clear the palates of participants in tasting studies involving capsaicin. An extract from chili peppers, capsaicin is considered an irritant because it causes warming and burning sensations.

Widespread consumption of chili peppers and foods such as buffalo wings spiced with siracha and hot sauce show that many people enjoy this burn. But these sensations also can be overwhelming. While folklore exists on the ability of specific beverages to mitigate capsaicin burn, quantitative data to support these claims are lacking.

In separate trials, people drank purified water, cola, cherry-flavored Kool-Aid, seltzer water, non-alcoholic beer, skim milk and whole milk. Participants continued to rate perceived burn every 10 seconds for two minutes. There were eight trials. Seven included one of the test beverages and one trial did not include a test beverage. All beverages significantly reduced the burn of the mix, but the largest reductions in burn were observed for whole milk, skim milk and Kool-Aid.

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Following the completion of all the trials, the participants answered two questions: “How often do you consume spicy food?” and “Do you like spicy food?” Researchers had hoped to see some correlation between participants’ perception of the burn from capsaicin and their exposure to spicy food. But no such relationship emerged from the study.

Beverages with carbonation such as beer, soda and seltzer water predictably performed poorly at reducing the burn of capsaicin. And if the beer tested would have contained alcohol, it would have been even worse because ethanol amplifies the sensation. In the case of Kool-Aid, researchers do not think that the drink removes the capsaicin but rather overwhelms it with a sensation of sweet.

A word for the wise- order a milk chaser with your next order of spicy wings!

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