The risk of premature death — including from cancer or cardiovascular disease — is reduced by around a quarter among those who eat chilli peppers, a study found.
Researchers from the US found that the anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin — the compound that gives peppers their fiery taste — may have wide health benefits.
These include both combatting tumours and inflammation and helping the body to control its blood glucose levels.
The ‘quite remarkable’ findings came after the team analysed the health and dietary records of more than 570,000 people across the globe.
However, the researchers noted that further studies will be needed to establish which varieties of chilli confer protection and how often one should consume them.
The risk of premature death — including from cancer or cardiovascular disease — is reduced by around a quarter among those who eat chilli peppers (pictured), a study has found
EAT CHILLI PEPPERS IN LOCKDOWN, EXPERTS HAVE SUGGESTED
Lockdown could provide Britons with the chance to pack potentially life-saving chilli peppers into their meals, heart experts have said.
‘Many of us are cooking more than usual at the moment,’ said British Heart Foundation nutritionist Victoria Taylor.
‘Experimenting with herbs and spices can be a great way to liven up your home-cooked meals and add variety, in a healthy and nutritious way.’
‘Fresh and dried chilli, black pepper or lemon juice are all healthier ways to add flavour to your meals which can help us to cut down on salt.’
‘Watch out for ready-made chilli sauces as well as spice mixes and rubs though, as these are often high in salt.’
‘Use nutritional information on packs to help you find low salt options as too much salt is linked to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases.’
‘If you want to try cooking up some healthy recipes this winter, the BHF website has some great suggestions.’
‘Regular consumption of chilli pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality,’ said study leader and cardiologist Bo Xu of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
In their study, the researchers pooled data from four previous health studies conducted across China, Iran, Italy and the US.
The finding, Dr Xu added, ‘highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health.’
The team believe that capsaicin — an antioxidant — may help to combat inflammation and tumours as well as help to control blood-glucose levels, thereby protecting against both diabetes and obesity.
‘I think the findings are really quite remarkable, actually,’ said nutritionist Penny Kris-Etherton of the American Heart Association and the Pennsylvania State University.
‘There were associations with multiple different diseases and endpoints,’ she added.
‘The authors found benefits of chilli pepper consumption on all cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality.’
Experiments on mice have shown that capsaicin boosts the ‘good’ gut bacteria that defend against weight gain by burning away fat.
Given this, the fiery compound could possibly be used as the foundation of an ‘anti-obesity’ pill.
Previous studies have also indicated that eating chilli reduces the risk of a host of illnesses — including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
‘The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown,’ said Dr Xu said.
‘Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say eating more chilli pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer.’
The studies the team reviewed included only limited health data on their subjects, Dr Xu noted, and could have included other factors that influenced the findings.
Furthermore, the amount of chilli peppers consumed — along with the particular varieties eaten — varied between the different studies’ participants, making it difficult to determine exactly what the optimum diet of the fruit might be.
‘More research, especially evidence from randomised controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings,’ Dr Xu cautioned.
Researchers from the US found that the anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin — the compound that gives peppers (pictured) their fiery taste — may have wide health benefits
Chilli peppers evolved capsaicin — which triggers a pain response — to protect themselves from being eaten by mammals, including us humans.
Birds, meanwhile — which are needed to help disperse the peppers’ seeds — lack the oral receptors to feel the fruit’s burn, so do not feel the same fiery reaction.
A 2017 study of more than 16,000 Americans followed for almost two decades found that those who ate plenty of chillies were 13 per cent less likely to die prematurely.
Last year a study of 22,000 Italians showed those who ate chillies every other day were 23 per cent less likely to die young — specifically, it also cut the risk of being killed by stroke or heart attack by 61 and 40 per cent, respectively.
The ‘quite remarkable’ findings came after the team analysed the heath and dietary records of more than 570,000 people across the globe. However, the researchers noted that further studies will be needed to establish which varieties of chilli confer protection
According to Cancer Research UK, the adoption of healthier diets could help to prevent around one in twenty cancers.
The organisation has advised a diet high in fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fresh chicken, fish and pulses and low in processed and red meat, fatty and sugary foods, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
The British Heart Foundation also recommends eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and fish to keep your weight down and cholesterol and blood pressure healthy.
Chilli peppers are a staple fruit of cuisines all over the world — including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican and Italian — and are eaten by a quarter of the world’s population every day.
The researchers have presented their preliminary findings to a virtual meeting of the American Heart Association.
CAPSAICIN: THE COMPOUND THAT MAKES CHILLIS SPICY
A substance called capsaicin gives chillies their distinctive hot, peppery taste.
There 23 known types of capsaicinoids and they are all believed to stem from the chilli pepper’s pith.
It is not actually a taste which produces the warm sensation on the tongue and in the mouth, but a reaction to pain.
The spiciness of a pepper is determined by the genes that regulate capsaicinoid production, and less pungent peppers have mutations mitigating this process.
The molecules have known nutritional and antibiotic properties and are used in painkillers and pepper spray.