Virginia Tech expert explains: What makes hot sauce hot?

A local expert weighs in ahead of Super Bowl Sunday

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend. Grab the chili and wings — and don’t forget the hot sauce!

A Virginia Tech professor is shedding light on the science behind those spicy flavors that can sometimes make us sweat.

It’s due to levels of capsaicin, a colorless and odorless compound found in peppers. It essentially tricks your body into thinking it’s physically warm.

“It binds to your receptor in your mouth and in other parts of your body. And that receptor, normally, is the one that detects heat. So this is telling your body, ‘Oh, this is hot,’” said Dr. Sean O’Keefe, a professor with Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Food Science and Technology.

Extended exposure to spicy foods could make it more tolerable. But if you don’t like things hot, grab a glass of milk or a spoonful of sour cream.

O’Keefe says the fat content can help counteract the effects of capsaicin if you bite into something too spicy.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!