Men who like spicier food are 'alpha males' with higher levels of testosterone, French report claims
French gourmets have traditionally shunned hot, spicy food – so they may be a little piqued by a study indicating that curry-loving men have higher testosterone.
Scientists at the highly-respected University of Grenoble have published a report suggesting that regular consumption of chili peppers may raise levels of the hormone, which is believed to make men more adventurous, enterprising and sexually active.
Laurent Begue, one of the authors of the study, said: "These results are in line with a lot of research showing a link between testosterone and financial, sexual and behavioural risk-taking."
The research paper, titled "Some Like It Hot", is to be published in the US-based journal "Physiology and Behavior".
Professor Begue said 114 men aged from 18 to 44, living in Grenoble, in south-eastern France, had taken part in the study.
Their testosterone levels were measured from saliva samples and they were presented with a plate of mashed potatoes and invited to add chili sauce to taste. Those who added the most hot sauce had the highest testosterone.
The hormone drives men to seek thrills and new sensations, leading them to frequent "more stimulating social groups and take more risks," according to Professor Begue.
"In this case, it applies to risk-taking in taste," he said. "It is also possible that the regular consumption of spicy food contributes to increasing testosterone levels, although so far this has only been demonstrated on rodents."
The effect of hot peppers on women has yet to be studied, but commentators say the research may inspire Gallic chefs to spice up their recipes and provoke a radical change in the eating habits of French men.
Unlike their British counterparts, relatively few have acquired a taste for hot curries. Many see chili as an assault on their taste buds that hinders enjoyment of the subtler, more delicate flavours of classic French cuisine.
They may now start to view spice as a virility test and attempt to prove their manliness by consuming eye-wateringly hot food.
The American scientist James M. Dabbs described testosterone as the hormone of "heroes, rogues and lovers" in a book published in 2000. He also linked high testosterone with violent crime and sexual assaults.