A new study from China suggests that people who consume spicy foods may live longer and healthier lives.
The investigators collected information from nearly half a million Chinese adults and followed them for over seven years. The participants provided information about alcohol and tobacco use, physical activity, diet and medical conditions.
Some Like It Hot:
People who frequently ate foods with fresh or dried chili peppers, chili oil or sauce were less likely to die during that time from cancer, heart disease or respiratory problems. Women who indulged in spicy foods more than three days a week were also less likely to die of infection.
People who had spicy foods nearly every day were 14 percent less likely to perish during the study than those who rarely ate them. The scientists point out, though, that eating spicy foods just a couple of times a week was only slightly less connected with lower mortality rates.
Because this was an epidemiological study (though a very big one!), the scientists can only note an association. It does not show that eating spicy foods is responsible for people living longer.
BMJ, Aug. 5, 2015
The Mystery of Why Spicy Foods Are Linked to Longer Life:
The investigators don’t know exactly why spicy foods might be helpful. They hypothesize that capsaicin in chili peppers may have beneficial effects on the microbes of the digestive tract. Other research has shown that the balance of bacteria in the bowels influences inflammation and chronic diseases of many types.
If you would like to learn more about gut microbes and some of their surprising effects, you may want to listen to our Radio Show 1002:
Are you a chili head? It turns out that Americans are becoming “addicted” to spicy food. If you would like to learn a lot more about the pros and cons of chilis, check out our article: Is America’s Love Affair with Hot Peppers Healthy or Harmful? You will find out about the hottest salsas. Which do you think takes the prize, Blair’s Mega Death Sauce or Mad Dog Inferno? Click here to find the answer.