People who eat this live longer, study suggests

Don’t be afraid to spice up your next meal. According to a new study just released by the American Heart Association, people who regularly eat chili peppers may live longer and appear to be at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

Some enjoy the spicy taste of chili peppers far more than others, but this work makes a strong case that even those with a mild palate should heat things up at least once or twice a week. 

In comparison to those who never or rarely eat peppers, researchers conclude people eating chili peppers may lower their risk of cardiovascular disease by 26% and decrease cancer risk by 23%!

Perhaps even more astounding, chili pepper consumption is associated with a 25% drop in death from any cause. Simply put, eating chili peppers promotes longer, healthier life.

What’s so healthy about chili peppers? Previous research indicates much of the chili pepper’s health benefits come from capsaicin, a chemical compound found in the fruit. Besides providing that trademark spicy taste, capsaicin also offers a host of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and blood-glucose regulating benefits. 

Like so many other areas of life, when it comes to eating habits we all tend to fall back on meals and diets we’re familiar with. Tons of people who avoided spicy foods their whole life find it very difficult to start picking up the hot sauce come adulthood. Capsaicin, though, is compelling proof that it can pay dividends to break free from one’s culinary comfort zone. 

To come to these conclusions the research team analyzed four previous studies that had collected data on long-term participant health outcomes and chili pepper consumption habits. That analysis encompassed over 570,000 people living in the United States, Italy, Iran, and China.

“We were surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all causes, CVD, and cancer mortality. It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health,” comments senior study author Bo Xu, M.D., cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, in a release.

All that being said, The study’s authors caution that no absolutes can be drawn from this work just yet. A lot of research is still needed before we can definitively say chili peppers can extend one’s lifespan. For example, further studies focusing on exact daily portions or varieties of chili peppers would go a long way toward providing a clearer picture of the relationship at play here.

“The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer. More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings,” Dr. Xu concludes.

This initiative is far from over and researchers say they will continue analyzing data and hope to publish a final paper at some point soon. In the meantime, though, consider adding some chili peppers to your favorite dish.

This research is set to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.