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Health alert as chilli contestant fries brain in brush with Carolina Reaper

10 April 2018

The 34-year-old man ate the pepper, a Carolina Reaper, as a part of a hot-pepper-eating contest.

"His symptoms began with dry heaves but no vomiting immediately after participation in a hot pepper contest where he ate one "Carolina Reaper", Dr Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Bassett Medical Center in NY said in the report.

This condition is known as reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS), and was most likely causing the thunderclap headaches.

A team of doctors from NY and MI published details of an unusual medical case to the journal BMJ Case Reports this week and it reads like a culinary horror story.

The pain was excruciating enough to warrant tests for neurological conditions, which came back negative. CT angiography, which allows doctors to visualize blood vessels, showed narrowing of four arteries delivering blood to the brain, suggesting RCVS.

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The first figure shows the man's brain after he staggered into the hospital emergency room; the second was taken five weeks later.

For those who dare, the Carolina Reaper has a fruity, sweet taste with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate undertones, as well as being extremely hot, according to the website of Guinness World Records.

Thunderclap headaches are severe headaches and come on very fast.

With a blistering 1.57 million on the Scoville heat scale, the Carolina Reaper is not a chilli to be messed with. "Capsaicin, the key ingredient in the pepper, is a vasoactive substance, so it could potentially narrow the blood vessels to the most important organs like the heart and brain". Reached by phone at the PuckerButt Pepper Co.in Fort Mill, S.C., the Reapers creator, Ed Currie, offered mixed advice on pepper consumption.

Dr Kulothungan Gunasekaran, at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, who wrote the report, said people need to be aware of these risks, if eating the chilli.

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Usually RCVS is caused by reactions to medications or illicit drugs. Previously eating cayenne pepper has been linked to sudden constriction of the coronary artery and heart attacks.

Hot peppers have a high concentration of capsaicin, a chemical responsible for the spiciness of certain foods.

The man's symptoms cleared up by themselves.

What's interesting is this isn't even the first time chilli peppers have caused these kinds of problems. Then they remembered the pepper.

The journal said that there is no particular treatment for the thunderclap headaches.

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Health alert as chilli contestant fries brain in brush with Carolina Reaper