Caitlin Gallagher
April 17, 2018 1:20 pm
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Even if you like your food spicy, you may not be into pursuing the world’s hottest chili peppers. For one man, though, the pursuit of the world’s hottest chili may have led to a medical emergency. A recent study looked into how the spiciest pepper in the world could have caused a man, who consumed one whole, to develop “thunderclap headaches.” But, as The Washington Post reported, a farmer who grows these spicy veggies is defending the pepper.

On April 9th, the British Medial Journal published a study on a 34-year-old man who started experiencing “thunderclap headaches” — sudden, severe headaches that hit “like a clap of thunder” — after eating a Carolina Reaper pepper. He consumed the pepper during an eating contest and later, he started having sudden headaches so intense that he went to the ER.

The doctors believed the headaches were caused by reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). The Cleveland Clinic says that RCVS occurs when the vessels that supply blood to the brain suddenly constrict. The main symptom of RCVS is thunderclap headaches.

The man is doing fine now, but the BMJ study implied that the Carolina Reaper may have been the culprit behind this scary syndrome.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Carolina Reaper is currently the hottest chili pepper in the world. Using Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which are used to quantify a food’s spiciness, the Carolina Reaper averages at 1,641,183 units per pepper.

To give you an idea of just how darn hot that it, the habanero pepper ranges from 150,000 to 350,000 SHUs, according to FiveThirtyEight. And there is plenty of evidence on the internet of how painful Carolina Reapers are to eat — from this guy who tried to rap after eating a Carolina Reaper to this couple on a blind date that ate wings coated in sauce made from the Carolina Reaper pepper.

While you probably weren’t too anxious to try a Carolina Reaper before this report (unless you’re a bit of a food sadist), not everyone agrees that the pepper led to the man’s headaches. The Washington Post spoke to neurology experts who noted that there’s no evidence that the active ingredient in chili peppers, capsaicin, causes arteries to narrow. Plus, that aforementioned pepper farmer has some advice of his own when it comes eating the Carolina Reaper.

Salvatore Genovese, who owns the British farm Love My Chillies, told Sky News that the Carolina Reaper pepper is “not really designed to … just plonk it in your mouth and eat it … I would never do that and I wouldn’t recommend it.” Instead, he suggests cooking with it as a way to add flavor — not to eat the whole thing at once, like in an eating contest.

In its discussions with experts, The Washington Post reported that the 34-year-old contestant’s body could have developed the thunderclap headaches as a response to the stress and pain of consuming something so hot so quickly — meaning, the pepper isn’t really directly to blame.

Thunderclap headaches or not, as with anything super spicy, you’ll want to proceed with caution when it comes to the Carolina Reaper. And as people keep coming up with ways to create even spicier chili peppers, be on the lookout for more ways these peppers will cause stress on the people who viciously treat themselves to these beasts.

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