If you’ve ever eaten something that was too spicy for your liking, chances are you reached for a glass of milk to try and cool down your mouth. But have you ever wondered why milk is effective in relieving the burning sensation caused by spicy foods? Let’s take a look at the science behind it.
When you eat something spicy, the active ingredient—capsaicin—binds to your TRPV1 receptors. These receptors are responsible for sensing pain, heat, and itchiness. When capsaicin binds to the receptors, it creates a burning sensation. However, capsaicin is not water-soluble, so drinking water will not provide relief. In fact, water can actually make the burning sensation worse because it can spread the capsaicin around your mouth.
So if water doesn’t work, what does? Milk is effective in reducing the burning sensation because it contains a protein called casein. This protein coats the TRPV1 receptors and prevents capsaicin from binding to them. As a result, you’ll feel relief from the burning feeling almost immediately after drinking milk.
Another reason milk is effective is because it contains fat. Fat helps to break down capsaicin so that it can be washed away more easily. In fact, even just a small amount of fat can help to reduce the burning sensation caused by spicy foods.
The next time you eat something that’s too spicy for your liking, reach for some milk instead of water. Milk is much more effective in reducing the burning feeling because it contains casein—a protein that coats your TRPV1 receptors—and fat—which helps to break down capsaicin so that it can be washed away more easily.
So keep a cold glass of milk handy the next time you want to enjoy a bowl of chili or spice up your life with some spicy wings!