What happened to a contestant in a hot-pepper-eating contest may give spicy food aficionados one more reason to "fear the reaper," according to a recent case report.
A 34-year-old man, experienced a series of intense headaches and dry heaving after eating a Carolina Reaper, reportedly the hottest pepper in the world, during a contest in New York.
The man developed excruciating pain in his head and neck, prompting him to go to an emergency room.
When the patient arrived at the hospital, physicians weren’t positive what had caused his symptoms. The man did not have any neurological deficits such as slurred speech, muscle weakness or vision loss that would have indicated a stroke. CT imaging also ruled out a blood clot or bleeding in one of the large blood vessels supplying the brain.
A CT angiogram of the brain’s blood vessels did reveal something unusual: a substantial narrowing of the left internal carotid artery and four other blood vessels supplying the brain.
Doctors eventually diagnosed the man with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, or RCVS, probably caused by the hot peppers. The good news is the symptoms improved, and he was released from the hospital after a few days.
Hot peppers have a high concentration of capsaicin, a chemical responsible for the spiciness of certain foods. The substance is known to cause constriction of blood vessels in some parts of the body and is even used at low concentrations in some topical medications.
The Carolina Reaper was bred in 2013 and measures roughly 1.5 million on the Scoville Heat Scale — a measurement of the pungency, or spiciness, of chili peppers.
That is over 400 times spicier than jalapeño peppers, which average 3,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale. ,