Regularly consuming chili peppers may reduce the risk of overall death as well as death from cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to a new analysis published in the American Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Hot chili peppers have long been a focus of health and nutrition research due to the unique properties of the chemical that gives them their natural hotness, capsaicin. This chemical is so powerful, in fact, that it’s used in several topical treatments for diabetic peripheral neuropathy — in concentrated formulations that you wouldn’t want to eat, of course. But consuming chili peppers and other spicy foods may have health benefits like increasing your metabolism, improving digestion, and boosting heart and blood vessel health — and, potentially, helping to regulate blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. Capsaicin isn’t the only potentially beneficial compound found in chili peppers and other peppers — they’re also a good source of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and phytochemicals, which help protect your cells from damage.
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Chili pepper consumption linked to lower death risk
For the latest analysis, researchers combed through 4,729 studies to find four that met their inclusion criteria — that is, studies that compared the effect of regular chili pepper consumption versus rare or no consumption on the risk of dying over time. The researchers pooled the data from all four studies to perform a combined analysis, and found that after adjusting for a variety of factors known to affect the risk of death, people who regularly consumed chili peppers were 13% less likely to die of all causes than those who didn’t regularly consume them over the course of the studies. For death from cardiovascular causes, chili pepper consumption was linked to a 17% lower risk, and for death related to cancer, it was linked to an 8% lower risk. The risk for stroke was 22% lower among people who regularly consumed chili peppers.
The researchers concluded that regular chili pepper consumption appears to reduce the risk for overall death, as well as death from some specific causes — but due to the different study designs their findings were based on, they couldn’t detect or recommend an ideal dose or strategy for eating chili peppers. That may not be a serious shortcoming when it comes to any impact on real-world behavior, since may people strongly like or dislike spicy foods — or even can’t tolerate them. But to the degree that you enjoy or can tolerate spicy foods, this latest research suggests that you shouldn’t hesitate to consume them in whatever form or quantity that works for you.
Want to learn more about the benefits of chili peppers? Read “The Hotter the Better: How Spicy Foods Can Boost Your Health.”