What chemical reaction causes spicy foods to taste spicy?

I think it is a chemical reaction involving the acid in saliva, but I'm not sure.

3 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The chemical is capsaicin.

    Mechanism of action

    The burning and painful sensations associated with capsaicin result from its chemical interaction with sensory neurons. Capsaicin, as a member of the vanilloid family, binds to a receptor called the vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (VR1). First cloned in 1997, VR1 is an ion channel-type receptor. VR1, which can also be stimulated with heat and physical abrasion, permits cations to pass through the cell membrane and into the cell when activated. The resulting "depolarization" of the neuron stimulates it to signal the brain. By binding to the VR1 receptor, the capsaicin molecule produces the same effect that excessive heat or abrasive damage would cause, explaining why the spiciness of capsaicin is described as a burning sensation.

    The VR1 ion channel has subsequently been shown to be a member of the superfamily of TRP ion channels, and as such is now referred to as TRPV1. There are a number of different TRP ion channels that have been shown to be sensitive to different ranges of temperature and probably are responsible for our range of temperature sensation. Thus, capsaicin does not actually cause a chemical burn; it causes only the sensation of one.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Heat is provided by capsaicin which fires off the heat sensors in your mouth.

  • 1 decade ago

    It is the way food is...

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