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The BBC's Karen Bowerman
"It has long been described as the nations favourite dish"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 12:46 GMT
British 'addicted to curry'
Thinking about curry can raise blood pressure, say scientists
By BBC consumer affairs correspondent Karen Bowerman

The British love of curries may be more than just a fondness for the taste, new research suggests.

Scientists at Nottingham Trent University have discovered that people can actually become addicted to curries, because they arouse and stimulate the senses.

Their findings indicate that people do not just crave curry because of its spicy taste, but also because it stimulates the senses and provides a natural high.

However, the claims have been dismissed by other food experts.

Our taste buds are literally crying out for stimulation

Professor Stephen Gray
Apparently just anticipating eating a curry is equally effective.

The Nottingham Trent scientists say sitting down to eat a chicken korma increases our heart beat by an extra three beats a minute, a tikka masala increases it by four and a half, and a rogan josh by seven.

In contrast, traditional British meals such as fish and chips barely increase the heart rate at all.

And it is not just the spices of the dish which appear to get us going.

'State of confusion'

Curry sauce makers Sharwood's commissioned the research, to discover why curries have become an integral part of British culture.

Professor Stephen Gray
Professor Stephen Gray believes curries provide intense stimulation
Professor Stephen Gray from Nottingham Trent University says the whole combination of tastes in a curry stimulate far more taste receptors on the tongue than other commonly eaten British foods.

He said: "By activating several areas of the tongue simultaneously, we are literally dazzling our taste buds to a state of confusion.

"Traditional British foods fail to do this, due to the basic flavour combinations.

"When we crave a curry it seems our taste buds are literally crying out for stimulation."

And the older we get, the more stimulation we need - so people should not be surprised if older people are just as keen on hot curries as young men who head to the curry house after a night in the pub.

Some doubted the claims that curry could be physically addictive.

Dr Wendy Doyle, of the British Dietetic Association, said: "I can understand cravings, but I'm not aware of any food that can cause an addiction."

Social high

Dickon Ross, a writer on food science, said curry was seen as a social food, and part of the associated high may be due to people having a good time while eating it.

I'm not aware of any food that can cause an addiction

Dr Wendy Doyle, British Dietetic Association
But he said: "This research does not show that there is anything particular in curries that is making us physically addicted to it.

"The addiction may be more similar to other kinds of 'natural high' addictions, like gambling, shopping, or internet use."

Nutritionists warn while curry eating may work wonders for our senses, creamy dishes favoured by many curry lovers are not quite so beneficial when it comes to our health.

Sara Stanner, of the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "The curries that are very popular in this country do tend to the be the ones with the creamy sauces, so they can be high in fat and calories which help people put on weight."

But as long as we stick to the less fattening sauces, and lean meat, or vegetables - and do not eat curry every single day - we cannot go too far wrong.

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