(Australian Associated Press)
Eating spicy food may lead to a longer life, according to a new US study.
Researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermony found that consumption of hot red chilli peppers is associated with a 13 per cent reduction in total mortality – primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke – in a large prospective study published in medical journal PLoS ONE.
Only one other study – conducted in China and published in 2015 – has previously examined chilli pepper consumption and its association with mortality.
The researchers examined national health and nutritional data from more than 16,000 Americans over a 23 year period and found that the consumption of hot red chilli peppers delayed death among those who ate the spicy fruit.
Those who regularly consumed hot chilli tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats”.
They also had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education compared to participants who did not consume red chilli peppers.
An explanation for why chilli may delay mortality is far from clear, but the researchers believe it may have everything to do with the way the capsaicin – the principal component of chilli peppers – affects the body’s Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels.
Many of the channels mediate a variety of sensations like the sensations of pain, hotness, warmth or coldness, different kinds of tastes, pressure, and vision.
Some TRP channels are thought to behave like microscopic thermometers and used to sense hot or cold and are activated by molecules found in spices like garlic, chilli pepper and wasabi.
Study authors Mustafa Chopan and Benjamin Littenberg say the capsaicin found in chilli pepper is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow.
It also possesses antimicrobial properties that may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota, Chopan and Littenberg say.
“Because our study adds to previous findings, chilli pepper – or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” Chopan said.