A spicy diet could be linked to dementia, new research involving the University of South Australia indicates.
A 15-year study of 4582 Chinese adults aged over 55 found evidence of faster cognitive decline in those who consistently ate more than 50 grams of chili a day. Memory decline was even more significant if the chili lovers were slim.
“Chili consumption was found to be beneficial for body weight and blood pressure in our previous studies. However, in this study, we found adverse effects on cognition among older adults,”
said Dr Zumin Shi, who led the study.
Memory Decline And Poor Cognition
Those who consumed in excess of 50 grams of chili a day had almost double the risk of memory decline and poor cognition, the work found.
UniSA epidemiologist Dr Ming Li, one of five researchers involved in the study, says chili intake included both fresh and dried chili peppers but not sweet capsicum or black pepper.
“Chili is one of the most commonly used spices in the world and particularly popular in Asia compared to European countries. In certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, almost one in three adults consume spicy food every day,”
Dr Li says.
Capsaicin is the active component in chili which reportedly speeds up metabolism, fat loss and inhibits vascular disorders but this is the first longitudinal study to investigate the association between chili intake and cognitive function.
Those who ate a lot of chili had a lower income and body mass index (BMI) and were more physically active compared to non-consumers.
Researchers say people of normal body weight may be more sensitive to chili intake than overweight people, hence the impact on memory and weight. Education levels may also play a role in cognitive decline and this link requires further research.
More research is needed to establish whether reducing chili intake can prevent cognitive decline, the authors conclude.
Zumin Shi, Tahra El-Obeid, Malcolm Riley, Ming Li, Amanda Page, and Jianghong Liu
High Chili Intake and Cognitive Function among 4582 Adults: An Open Cohort Study over 15 Years
Nutrients, 2019; 11 (5): 1183 DOI: 10.3390/nu11051183