Eating chili regularly may make you live longer
02/05/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

Everyone should try to add some chili peppers into his or her diet. Not only does the spice turn an ordinary or even boring meal into a literally mouthwatering treat, but consuming a large amount of the spice could help you live a healthier and longer life.

The fruit of the Capsicum genus is a very popular spice that originated in Mexico. It spread across the world after European traders brought back samples during the 16th century. Now it is added to all kinds of dishes.

Traditional medicinal systems use peppers and spices to treat various kinds of diseases. The flavorful food ingredients were believed to provide necessary nourishment to the body, thereby extending the life of the one who consumed them.

Many modern-day studies have investigated the health benefits of eating spices like the chili pepper. Peppers and spices were shown to contain numerous chemical compounds that possess various beneficial properties, such as antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

But only a 2015 research effort considered the chili pepper in the light of longevity. Chinese scientists claimed that eating large numbers of the spicy peppers decreased the chances of an early death, which translated to more people living longer lives. (Related: Study finds that chili peppers and marijuana can help reduce inflammation in the gut.)

Live longer by eating lots of chili peppers

The University of Vermont (UVM) followed up on the findings of the Chinese study. It reviewed data from a national survey of more than 16,000 Americans who voluntarily underwent observation of their health and lifestyle for as long as 23 years.

The participants were grouped together based on the amount of chili peppers they ate. The baseline characteristics of each group were examined and compared.

Participants who ate chili peppers turned out to be younger people of the male gender, either white or Mexican American, and married. They came from low-income brackets and were not well-educated. Finally, they also displayed lower levels of HDL cholesterol.

The UVM researchers turned their attention to the state of the participants' health 19 years later. After recording the number of deaths that had taken place over the follow-up, they looked at the particular reason as to why a participant died.

They made the same discovery as the Chinese research team from five years ago: People who ate chili peppers lived longer lives. Furthermore, the spicier the food, the longer their lives and their health lasted.

Capsaicin, the compound that makes chili pepper hot and healthy

The researchers are not yet sure exactly how chili pepper is able to prevent early deaths. But they can make a good guess it has something to do with Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels.

TRP channels are the main biological receptors for the pungent agents that give spicy foods their hot flavor. In chili peppers, the main pungent agent is capsaicin.

The amount of capsaicin in a chili pepper determines its spiciness. And since the UVM experiment found that a spicier diet led to a longer lifespan, it stood to reason that capsaicin is responsible for this health benefit.

Several studies have suggested that capsaicin works through the cellular and molecular means by which the body controls lipids and the flow of blood from the heart. By boosting the efficiency of these natural processes, it prevents the onset of obesity and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In addition, capsaicin is also known to kill harmful microorganisms. This antimicrobial effect could be targeting bad bacteria that have gotten into the human gut.

"Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper – or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials," concluded UVM researcher Mustafa Chofan.

Sources include:

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