Why does spicy food make my nose run?
Chillies may have evolved their heat as protection against being eaten, but that hasn’t stopped us from finding them delicious.
Asked by: Smera Ahuja, Winchester
Spicy compounds are produced by plants to deter animals from eating them. They have evolved to be as irritating as possible to the mucous membranes of mammals. In fact, the capsaicin in chilli doesn’t actually cause tissue damage, but it triggers the nerve receptors that normally detect heat, and your nose is fooled into producing extra mucus to protect your sinuses.
Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.