New research suggests eating spicy foods reduces one’s risk of dying an early death, particularly from cancer, respiratory, and ischemic heart diseases. Researchers exploring the connection between spicy food consumption and reduced early death risks are from the Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, China.
The authors of the observational study are careful to caution that the findings suggest correlation only and it in no way show definitive cause and effect. At the same time, the authors suggest the issue requires additional examination. If a causal connection between spicy foods and a reduction in early death risks is identified, it may result in changes in recommended dietary intakes.
Past studies have illustrated the myriad health benefits of capsaicin, which include anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. The newest study involved 487,375 participants ranging from 30 to 79 years of age, all of who were from the China Kadoorie Biobank (once known as the Kadoorie Study of Chronic Disease in China). Participants of the study originated from ten different regions in China. Those who participated in the study enrolled during a four-year period between 2004 and 2008. Each participant had to fill out a general questionnaire requesting information about health and food intake. Each participant answered questions about body measurements and food consumption. The questionnaire also covered information related to physical activity, education level, marital status, and age.
Individuals with a history of stroke, cardiovascular disease, or cancer did not participate. During the seven-year follow-up period of the study, some 20,224 participants died. The findings of the study reveal that people who ate spicy foods one to two times weekly, when compared to those who ate spicy selections less than one time weekly, had a 10 percent lower early death risk. What’s more, those who consumed spicy selections three to five or six to seven days per week had a 14 percent lower early death risk than their counterparts who hardly ate spicy foods at all. The correlation was similar in women and men, but even stronger in individuals who refrained from drinking alcohol. Interestingly, even more apparent in women than in men, is the fact that consuming spicy foods correlated to a reduced risk of early death from cancer, respiratory disease, or ischemic heart disease.
Dried and fresh chili peppers were one of the most common spicy foods participants consumed on a weekly basis. Though requiring further study, the research suggests the consumption of fresh chili peppers correlated to a reduced early death risk from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The authors of the study point to the bioactive ingredients in fresh chili peppers as being the reason for the association, since the food product is nutrient rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, Folate, choline, and capsaicin. The benefits of capsaicin are not surprising since the ingredient is honored for its natural healing properties. Capsaicin is beneficial in stimulating the heart, lungs, kidneys, and in treating infections and pain.
As per the University of Cambridge’s Nita Forouhi, correlation does not mean causation, and the causal link between the consumption of spicy foods and reduced early death risks are yet to be demonstrated. Additional research is needed to find out if other factors play a role in reducing the risks of an early death or if a definitive causal link exists between spicy food consumption and a lower early death risk.
Even though spicy foods may beneficial for some, I want to caution those who have gout or arthritis. I have found certain spicy foods including cayenne and bell peppers inflame my patients arthritic conditions.