Spicy lifesaver? Study finds regularly eating chili peppers may extend your lifespan

POZZILLI, Italy — They say variety is the spice of life. Interestingly, according to a new study conducted in Italy, spice may actually go a long way towards prolonging life as well. Researchers tracked the eating habits and health of over 20,000 Italian citizens for an average period of eight years, and discovered that people who ate chili pepper on a regular basis were 23% less likely to die by any cause in comparison to those who avoided eating chili pepper.

Furthermore, the research team noted that individuals eating chili peppers regularly (at least four times per week) were 40% less likely to die from a heart attack, and more than 50% less likely to die due to a cerebrovascular (blood flow within the brain) issue. In total, 22,811 people living in the Molise region of Italy were tracked for this study.

“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed. In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect,” explains – first study author Marialaura Bonaccio, a Neuromed epidemiologist, in a release.

This set of research is part of an ever larger scientific initiative, called the Moli-sani study. An extensive and long-term project, the study is the first ever to investigate how chili pepper influences risk of death among European and Mediterranean peoples.

“Chili pepper is a fundamental component of our food culture. We see it hanging on Italian balconies, and even depicted in jewels. Over the centuries, beneficial properties of all kinds have been associated with its consumption, mostly on the basis of anecdotes or traditions, if not magic. It is important now that research deals with it in a serious way, providing rigor and scientific evidence,” comments Licia Iacoviello, Director of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed and Professor of Hygiene and Public Health at the Università dell’Insubria of Varese.

“And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health,” he continues.

The study’s authors say that additional research is necessary to fully understand why chili peppers are so advantageous from a health perspective. Still, the findings certainly encourage incorporating an extra chili pepper or two into your next meal.

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.