People who have a taste for chili peppers and other hot spicy foods may live longer, research suggests.
A new study of more than 500,000 Chinese adults over seven years finds that participants who ate foods flavored with chili peppers every day reduced their risk of premature dying by 14 percent, as compared to people who ate chili peppers less than once a week.
But, don’t sweat it: you don’t’ have to indulge every day to reap the benefits. Lu Qi, professor of epidemiology at Tulane University, says:
“Even among those who consumed spicy foods less frequently [one to two days a week], the beneficial effects could be observed. Indeed, moderate increase of spicy foods would benefit.”
In China, chili pepper is a popular spice, and participants reported eating their peppers fresh, dried, and in sauce or oil. In the United States, hot pepper sauce has increased in popularity over the last decade, according to market research.
While his study, published in the BMJ, doesn’t address other foods, earlier research has indicated that horseradish, black pepper, garlic, and ginger may offer similar benefits.
”There also is preliminary data from other studies showing such potential,” Qi says.
Capsaicin in chili peppers may be what protects health, Qi says. It reduces risk of obesity, offers antibacterial properties, and helps protect against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other conditions.
Chili peppers also improve inflammation and reduce blood pressure and oxidative stress.
Lv Jun, Qi Lu, Yu Canqing, Yang Ling, Guo Yu, Chen Yiping et al. Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study BMJ 2015;351:h3942