Including more hot chilies in your regular diet could help reduce the risk of early death from heart disease and stroke. [Photo: Bigstock]

Live long…and eat hot peppers

19 January, 2017

Natural Health News — Like spicy food? If so, it could help you live longer, according to new research.

In a large prospective study researchers from Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, who found that consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13% percent reduction in total mortality – primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke.

For the study, published in PLoS ONE the research team looked at diet and causes of death in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III – which involved more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years.

Not just healthy eaters

It would be easy to dismiss the protective effects of hot chili peppers as a result of a healthy eating bias – which would indicate that those who ate chilies also paid more attention to diet and lifestyle than the average person.

What you need to know

» A new analysis involving dietary information from more than 16,000 Americans has found that those who eat hot chili peppers may live longer.

» The researchers say that those who ate chili peppers weren’t necessarily the ones following the healthiest diets and lifestyles overall but nevertheless the chili eaters were on average 13% less likely to die early from all causes but particularly from heart disease and stroke.

» It may be that chilies help improve blood flow and gut health which could translate into fewer deaths from these diseases.

But, say the researchers, in comparison to those who did not consume red chili peppers, those who ate more hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats . . . had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,”

Protective effects

“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors.

There are some possible explanations for red chili peppers’ health benefits, say the researchers. Among them are the fact that capsaicin is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, and also possesses antimicrobial properties that “may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.”

Going back for centuries, peppers and spices have been thought to be beneficial for health. There is evidence that chilies can help burn fat and reduce levels of hunger triggering hormones.

In one other study – conducted in 2015 by Chinese researchers – has previously examined chili pepper consumption and its association with mortality. This new study bolsters the Chinese study’s findings.