Published On: Wed, Aug 5th, 2015

Spicy food ‘can lower the risks of early death’

Data suggest: those who had spicy food six or seven times a week were found to have a 14 per cent lower mortality risk than those who rarely consumed such foods

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Adding a touch of spice to your daily meal has well-established advantages. But could it be that those who like it hot are also improving their health?

Previous research has suggested that beneficial effects of spices and their bioactive ingredient, capsaicin, include anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and anticancer properties.

Researchers in China examined the association between consumption of spicy foods as part of a daily diet and the total risk and causes of death.

The findings from an extensive study shows that those who regularly consume spicy food had a slightly lower mortality risk over seven years of follow-up, than those who ate them less than once a week.

Out of 487, 375 participants, aged 30-79 years, 20, 224 died over the average seven year study period.

When the results were adjusted for age and other influential factors, those who had spicy food – usually in the form of chilli peppers, chilli sauce or chilli oil – six or seven times a week, were found to have a 14 per cent lower mortality risk than those who rarely consumed such foods. Compared with participants who ate spicy foods less than once a week.

The association was similar in both men and women, and was stronger in those who did not consume alcohol.

Frequent consumption of spicy foods was also linked to a lower risk of death from cancer, and ischaemic heart and respiratory system diseases, and this was more evident in women than men.

Fresh and dried chilli peppers were the most commonly used spices in those who reported eating spicy foods weekly, and further analysis showed those who consumed fresh chilli tended to have a lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and diabetes.

Some of the bioactive ingredients are likely to drive this association, the authors explain, adding that fresh chilli is richer in capsaicin, vitamin C, and other nutrients. But they caution against linking any of these with lowering the risk of death.

Should people eat spicy food to improve health? In an accompanying editorial, Nita Forouhi from the University of Cambridge says it is too early to tell, and calls for more research to test whether these associations are the direct result of spicy food intake or whether this is a marker for other dietary or lifestyle factors.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but the authors call for more research that may “lead to updated dietary recommendations and development of functional foods.”

 

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