Some like it hot, and others might have to learn to like it, according to a new study in the US that has found those who regularly include red hot chili peppers in their diet live longer than those who don’t.
It has been thought for centuries that peppers and spices are beneficial in both the prevention and treatment of some diseases, but in this new research, scientists discovered that people who regularly consume hot chili peppers are 13 percent less likely to die than their non-capsicum-consuming counterparts.
The study, conducted by the University of Vermont and published in the journal PLOS One, looked at the data of 16,000 Americans collected from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey that was carried out over 23 years.
The total mortality rate was 21.6 percent for those who did eat chilis compared to 33.6 percent for those who didn’t. After adjusting for demographic, lifestyle, and clinical characteristics, the result was a 13 percent reduced mortality rate among those who ate the hot peppers. They were also less likely to die of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
However, the researchers found that the lifestyle of those who typically ate chili peppers didn’t give any obvious indication of why they might live longer. They found that the highest consumers of chilis tended to be younger, married males of Mexican-American descent, who were likely to drink and smoke, eat more vegetables and meat, have a lower cholesterol, low income, and be less educated.
Instead, the researchers think that the Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are the primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the main component of chilis) and are actually known as the “capsaicin receptor”, may be responsible for the link. Activating the TRP receptors appears to stimulate cellular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, hence the lower risk of death from heart disease.
Capsaicin also has antimicrobial properties, which may affect gut microbiota, and chili peppers are a known source of vitamins A, B, and C, which could indicate a healthier diet.
"Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper – or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials," said co-author Mustafa Chopan in a statement.