A little while back Kurt Harris wrote about hormesis, and vegetables:
Hormesis is when a small stress induces a healthy response in an organism, such that the organism is healthier than without the stress exposure. Any stress that we have defenses for, that we would expect to encounter on an evolutionary basis, is a candidate to be hormetic. Think of this as a necessary, but not sufficient, set of conditions, though.I was scarfing down some of my ridiculously too hot chilli garlic sauce and started wondering why we (some of us at least) torture ourselves like this, or by running marathons or ultra-marathons. If Dr Harris' hypothesis is correct we are optimized for a certain amount of hormetic toxic stress from foods like vegetables. And we might also be designed to crave this hormetic stress. Just as we are designed to crave the hormetic stress from exercise (I believe this is built into all of us, but is often disconnected by metabolic syndrome).
The perfect example of hormesis is exercise. Exercise creates oxidative stress, and resistance exercise in particular literally destroys muscle tissue. Hormesis explains the “paradox” (which is no paradox at all) that marathon running and other extreme endurance sports could be quite bad for your health, but that more moderate exercise is much better than no exercise at all. This explains why I write posts like this and this, yet I continue to run about 8-10 K per week in addition to strength training twice a week.
So is chilli addiction and exercise addiction a craving for hormetic stress? Or is it simple endorphin addiction--as is often posited? Or is it both, or are they the same thing? All wild speculation of course, but interesting.
Isn't capsaicin a plant defense mechanism? I dunno, that's what I always thought. On the other hand, what is the point of having a seeded fruit like a chilli pepper if you don't want animals to eat it? This reminds me of another (apparent) defense mechanism that I love, caffeine. According to Wikipedia, "Caffeine is found in varying quantities in the beans, leaves, and fruit of some plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants." Kills insects by causing them to speed their tits off, that is. And who doesn't enjoy slamming down five double espressos? I love it, I just don't love crashing, or having my eyeballs twitching out of their sockets.
Chilli, hormetic craving or masochism?