Like spicy food? You may live longer, say scientists who found that consuming hot red chili peppers may significantly reduce death risk, particularly due to heart disease or stroke.
Going back for centuries, peppers and spices have been thought to be beneficial in the treatment of diseases, but very few studies have examined chili pepper consumption and its association with mortality.
Using data collected from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years, researchers from Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in the US examined the baseline characteristics of the participants according to hot red chili pepper consumption.
They found that consumers of 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," in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers.
They examined data from a median follow-up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed 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 researchers.
There are some possible explanations for red chili peppers' health benefits, they said.
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."
"Because our study adds to the generalisability 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 Mustafa Chopan from University of Vermont.
The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.
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