Our tolerance for spicy food runs the gamut. Some of us taste a serrano pepper slice and run for a fire extinguisher. Others would happily drink a full bottle of hot sauce if table decorum allowed it. In fact, some people are so committed to capsaicin (the substance that makes food taste spicy) that they scour restaurants and grocery stores in search of the world's hottest chili peppers.
Capsaicin is a chemical irritant naturally found in fresh peppers. It's responsible for the insane heat level that we may experience when consuming the world's spiciest peppers and hottest hot sauces. In addition to powering spicy foods, capsaicin has been shown to offer health benefits, particularly when used to treat pain or itching. Research also suggests it may alter the expression of genes that would otherwise cause cancer. As such, there may be true value to eating the spiciest peppers in the world, assuming your stomach can take the heat.
But what is the hottest pepper in the world? To determine that, we first need to understand what defines "hot."