Hot, hot, hot: Can spicy food ruin your taste buds?


Let’s face it, we love spicy food. Ever since hot chilli peppers were brought to the UK, we’ve developed a taste for them, as well as developed a habit of testing ourselves to see how hot we can truly go.

One common myth that surrounds spicy food is that when the Scoville unit gets too high, foods can actually damage our taste buds enough so that our sense of taste is irrevocably ruined. Although this is a common myth that does actually put a lot of people off from eating food that is too spicy, it isn’t actually true.

The myth stems from the sensation of numbness in the mouth that spicy food causes. Many believe that this numbness is the spicy food killing the taste buds within the tongue, preventing them from tasting as much in the future. The active ingredient in peppers is capsaicin; this chemical is the cause of the temporary numbness but the numbness is simply a result of your body going into protection mode from the pain of eating spicy food. This effect – no matter how virulent at the time – doesn’t last. The effect will eventually wear off, even if it takes a litre of milk and an ice pack for your tongue to get over it.

Unfortunately, the decline in taste-bud sensitivity is something that happens naturally as we get older. It is this natural decline that people attribute with the spicy food they are eating. Our mouths have over 10,000 taste buds which constantly replace themselves as we get older but like the rest of the cells in our body, some of them fail to replace themselves over and over again.

You can test out your taste buds on a number of spicy dishes here at Royal Nawaab’s restaurant in both Manchester and London.