To answer this question, Life’s Little Mysteries turned to one of the experts: Paul Bosland, professor of horticulture at New Mexico State University and director of the Chile Pepper Institute, was responsible for finding the world’s hottest chili pepper, the Bhut Jolokia.
Bosland says that chili peppers (or as some call them, chile peppers) can indeed cause death — but most people’s bodies would falter long before they reached that point. “Theoretically, one could eat enough really hot chiles to kill you,” he says. “A research study in 1980 calculated that three pounds of extreme chilies in powder form — of something like the Bhut Jolokia — eaten all at once could kill a 150-pound person.”
This scenario wouldn’t likely have a chance to play out. “However, one’s body would react sooner and not allow it to happen,” Bosland said. “One would have to eat it all in one sitting,” he says. Taken over the course of a year, those three pounds of chilies wouldn’t be harmful.
(Thanks to investigator Mark Dionne for bringing this to our attention.)