Can’t get enough spicy food? You might get more time above ground to enjoy it.
Researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont have found that the consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in mortality – chiefly in deaths from heart disease or stroke.
Analyzing data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III – gathered from more than 16,000 Americans who were observed for up to 23 years – medical student Mustafa Chopan and professor of medicine Benjamin Littenberg looked at the baseline characteristics of the participants according to their hot red chili pepper consumption.
They discovered that pepper consumers were likely 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," compared to those who didn’t consume red chili peppers.
They looked at data from average follow-up of 18.9 years, examined the number of deaths and then looked at the specific causes of death.
"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," said the study authors.
Chopan and Littenberg write that there are several potential explanations for the health benefits of spicy foods like hot peppers, including the fact that capsaicin (an active component of chili peppers) is thought to play a part in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blow flood. Capsaicin also has antimicrobial properties that "may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota."
"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 Chopan.
The study was published in the journal PloS ONE.