Some people love spicy food and others can stand the burning sensation. But is spicy food healthy? As it turns out, those who constantly reach for a bottle of hot sauce or add chili peppers to dishes could also be adding years to their lives.
Is spicy food healthy?
One recent study followed 500,000 Chinese adults over a median of 7.2 years. The researchers found a 14% reduced risk in total mortality among those who ate spicy foods 6 or 7 days a week versus those who ate spicy foods less than once a week. Individuals who ate spicy only 1-2 days a week still had a 10% reduced risk of mortality over those who ate spicy food infrequently. Specifically, benefits were found for cancer, ischaemic heart disease and respiratory disease. While a cause and effect relationship can’t be ensured from this study, it does raise strong evidence that spicy food is in fact healthy.
But, what causes these health benefits? The researchers noted that
There is increasing scientific interest in spicy foods. Many potential benefits have been suggested for chilli or its bioactive compound capsaicin, including but not limited to antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties, a beneficial influence on gut microbiota, and anti-obesity effects through thermogenesis and appetite, energy balance, and weight management.
Chili peppers were the most commonly recorded spice consumed among participants in the study. So, you might want to add a few chili peppers to you grocery basket the next time you’re at the store. Also, don’t be afraid to order food a little hotter than you normally do!
Forouhi, Nita G. “Consumption of hot spicy foods and mortality—is chilli good for your health?.” (2015): h4141.