Regularly Eating Chilies Can Lower the Risk of Death by Up to 23%: Study
Wed, April 21, 2021

Regularly Eating Chilies Can Lower the Risk of Death by Up to 23%: Study

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating chili peppers regularly can help reduce the risks of dying from many causes / Photo by: PixaHub via Shutterstock

 

Not everyone loves spicy food, but for those who do, there's great news for you. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating chili peppers regularly can help reduce the risks of dying from many causes.

Aside from leaving a tingly and slightly burning sensation in your mouth, chili has long been believed to have therapeutic properties. Now, researchers reveal that regular consumption of this spicy fruit can cut the risk of dying from various ailments like heart disease, stroke, and brain disease.

 

Spice It Up

The study analyzed the data of 22,811 women living in southern Italy collected between 2005 and 2010 to compare the risks of death in people who eat chili and those who don't.

At the beginning of the study, the participants were asked about what they ate and were placed into four categories based on their answers: those who never or rarely ate chili peppers; those who ate them twice a week; between twice and four times; and four times or more.

After monitoring the subjects’ health status and eating habits for eight years, the researchers found that eating chili peppers at least four times a week lowered the risk of dying from any cause by 23%. Dying of cardiovascular disease was also 34% lower for participants who often consumed the spicy fruit compared to those who never or rarely ate chilis, reported Newsweek, a premier news magazine and website that provides high-quality journalism through in-depth analysis, news, and opinion about international issues, technology, business, culture, and politics.

"The strength of the association between chili pepper and cardiovascular mortality risk is quite strong, but also the risk reduction toward total death risk is actually surprising," the researchers said.

Results of early studies suggested the active component in chili peppers that makes them spicy—known as capsaicin—may carry health benefits, Newsweek added. The team, however, noted that additional work needs to be done to explain the mechanisms behind the link and characterize the possible role that capsaicin plays.

Independent of the Diet

The chili pepper is commonly used as a flavoring for traditional food in southern Italy, making it a staple in the Mediterranean diet. Even though the spicy fruit is a common item in the Mediterranean diet, the eating habits of the participants don't affect the protection from death that chilies provide.

"An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed," said study lead author Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed).

"In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all, the chili pepper has a protective effect."

That protective effect is observed in the lowered risk of dying from a heart attack (40%) and stroke (more than 50%), according to a CNN report.

Licia Iacoviello, director of the department of epidemiology and prevention at Neuromed and a professor at the University of Insubria in Varese, said the beneficial properties of chili have not only been passed down through Italian food culture but is now observed in countries like China and the US.

“[We] know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action toward our health,” Iacoviello said.

The chili pepper is commonly used as a flavoring for traditional food in southern Italy, making it a staple in the Mediterranean diet / Photo by: Chayasit Fangem via Shutterstock


Going Forward

The results of this study support the findings of a similar 2017 work that looked into the effects of chili peppers on mortality rates in the US.

While the results of both studies were similar, MindBodyGreen (MBG) said the American study was unable to provide clear evidence whether the association was caused by the chilies or the "other foods often consumed with hot red chili peppers, such as other spices."

MBG is a lifestyle media brand that provides readers with resources to help them live their best life mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and environmentally.

The media brand noted that the European research, unlike its American counterpart, has results that suggest chili peppers were attributed to lower mortality rates and proved that the protective properties work across several populations in Europe, North America, and Asia.

However, the researchers acknowledged that their study was observational, meaning it's limited to the examined data collected from the participants. The dietary data were only collected once, making it unclear if the participants' diet changed over time.
As the team has yet to establish the biochemical mechanisms that make chili good for the health, they don't recommend increasing the intake of chili peppers yet.

"Diets should not be treated as drugs," they warned. "We should not talk in terms of amounts per day, as if we were dealing with drugs, rather our effort should be addressed to promote a global healthy lifestyle, starting from [the] diet."

They did encourage people to continue adding chilies to their food if they usually do so given the "good scientific" evidence that supports its benefits.