Ok, I admit it. I cannot be neutral about this topic since I am a confirmed “chile-head.” I love hot peppers. I’m not the only one. Salsa sales are soaring. The market for hot sauce swelled more than 150% over the last several years. It’s nice to know that there is growing scientific support for pepper lovers’ passion. No matter how you spell hot peppers (chili, chilli, or chile), the capsaicin ingredient that tingles taste buds is revered around the world.
Chile Peppers and Longevity:
Investigators from the University of Vermont examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III covering over 16,000 American adults who were followed for 19 years (PLOS One, Jan. 9, 2017). Those who reported eating hot peppers were about 13 percent less likely to die during the study.
Here’s how the data broke down. Over the roughly two decades of the study 4,946 people died. The people who shunned spicy stuff had a mortality rate of 33.6 percent. The hot red chili pepper lovers died at a 21.6 percent rate. This was after the investigators controlled for things like diet, smoking, blood pressure, age, gender, diabetes, and other risk factors. The authors concluded:
“In this large population-based prospective study, the consumption of hot red chili pepper was associated with reduced mortality. Hot red chili peppers may be a beneficial component of the diet.”
The History of Hot Stuff:
Chile pepper lovers have been around for thousands of years. Indigenous peoples of Mexico were using hot chiles 7,000 to 9,000 years ago. It didn’t take the people of South Asia long to catch up. Red hot peppers caught on there in the 1500s. India is now a major producer and consumer of chile peppers. People in China and Thailand also cherish chiles.
Health Benefits for Pepper Lovers:
Hot peppers and other pungent spices have a range of health benefits. Capsaicin has been shown to improve heart health. The hot stuff in hot peppers (capsaicin) improves circulation, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. It may also have anti-cancer potential.
The analysis from researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine is not the first hint that hot pepper lovers live longer. A large study in China found a similar association in 2015. The investigators tracked 199,293 men and 288,082 women for over seven years. People who loved spicy foods had significantly better mortality stats than individuals who preferred bland food (BMJ, Aug. 4, 2015). The authors note:
“Compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods 6 or 7 days a week showed a 14% relative risk reduction in total mortality…Inverse associations were also observed for deaths due to cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases.”
So, two independent large prospective studies confirmed a relationship between hot chile pepper consumption and longer life. In one study the “lower hazard of death” was 13% and in the other it was 14%. That’s amazingly close. And these were distinctly different populations–Americans and Chinese.
The authors of the PLOS One study propose that TRP channels could be part of the mechanism. Never heard of Transient Receptor Potential channels before? Then you have not been reading The People’s Pharmacy carefully. In this article, you will learn why stimulating TRP channels with things like capsaicin, acetic acid (vinegar), mustard, ginger or cinnamon can stop muscle cramps in under two minutes.
Interview with one of the brilliant neuroscientists who came up with this approach:
TRP activation may help modulate coronary blood flow as well as impact a number of other biological systems. Hot peppers may also affect the make-up of the microbes in the digestive tract, which could also have a positive impact on human health. And let’s not forget that chile peppers contain lots of essential nutrients including vitamin C and several B vitamins.
Hot Pepper Lovers Share their Secrets:
Visitors to this website have been singing the praises of hot chili peppers for years. Here is just one example about using chili peppers to overcome migraines.
Would you like to learn more about hot chile peppers and other spices? We have three wonderful books for your reading and tasting pleasure. Do not eat the books, but in all three you will find recipes and fascinating stories about the healing power of food. In particular, you will discover how spices like hot chile peppers could enhance your life.
First, is our standby: The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies
and our most recent book, Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.
Why not spice up your life by joining pepper lovers all over the world?