DALLAS — If you like it “hot, hot, hot” then you’ll love this research. Previous studies have shown that spicy food can have a positive impact on your health. Now, a study released by the American Heart Association and Cleveland Clinic offers a “hot” new take on the topic. Researchers say eating chili peppers doesn’t just add a delicious kick to your dinner, it can also help you live longer by reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The study finds consuming chili peppers cuts the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 26 percent. The odds of dying from cancer decreased by 23 percent compared to people who don’t include peppers in their diet.
One of the key findings is that chili peppers act as a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and blood-glucose regulator. This is due to the release of a compound called capsaicin into an eater’s system. This substance gives a pepper its trademark mild to intense spicy flavor.
“Subjects who regularly consumed chili pepper, particularly the hot chili pepper, had a lower risk, relative risk, of dying from all causes, as well as dying from heart and vascular- related causes, as well as cancer-related deaths,” says senior author Dr. Bo Xu of the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute, in a statement.
The international appeal of chili peppers
Researchers looked at over 4,700 studies from five major health databases to gather their data. Their final report included four large studies on the health of individuals who either did or didn’t eat chili peppers. The data examined more than 570,000 people from the United States, Italy, China, and Iran.
Overall, the report finds a 25-percent drop in all causes of death among people who include chili peppers in their diet.
“We were surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all cause, CVD and cancer mortality. It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health,” Dr. Xu notes in an American Heart Association release. “The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer. More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”
Dr. Xu adds these findings have some limitations because the respondents ate different amount and various types of chili peppers. This makes determining if a specific variety or serving size is better for a patient’s health. “If you’re someone who likes spicy food, hopefully this gives you confirmation. If you’re someone who never tried spicy food, I think, at least hopefully, this study will serve as an incentive for you to give it a go,” says Xu.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.
This article is an updated version of a post first published on November 13, 2020.
Peppers are fruits, not vegetables—otherwise, a great quick summary.