Can Eating Chili Peppers Help You Live Longer? A New Study Has the Answer
If you like spicy food, you’re in luck: There’s a growing body of research, which supports that chili peppers can help you live longer. Longevity involves many factors, such as maintaining a healthy heart, decreasing your risk of chronic diseases, and practicing a healthy lifestyle, according to Harvard Health.
One recent study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020, examined the diets of more than 500,000 people worldwide to investigate the impact of chili pepper consumption on longevity. The analysis found that those who regularly ate chili pepper had a 26 percent relative reduction in cardiovascular mortality, a 23 percent relative reduction in cancer mortality, and a 25 percent relative reduction in all-cause mortality. Findings emphasize the importance of diet in improving health, as certain foods can be more beneficial for your body than others.
“The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer,” said senior author Bo Xu, MD, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.
The exact link between eating chili peppers and living longer remains unclear and more research needs to be done, specifically regarding the amount and type of chili pepper consumption to draw conclusions. However, most chili peppers are power-packed with anti-inflammatory properties and essential nutrients that make them a great addition to any diet. Here are some benefits of this spice:
1. Chili Peppers Are High in Vitamins and Minerals
Chili peppers are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K1, copper, and potassium. Just one medium-sized red bell pepper provides 169% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C, making it one of the richest dietary sources of gaining this nutrient. “Chili peppers also have antioxidant properties, which fight free radicals in the blood. Free radicals put our bodies at increased risk for many chronic diseases,” Amanda Nicole, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist tells The Beet.
2. Chili Peppers Provide Pain Relief
Capsaicin is an important compound only found in chili peppers. This compound has many anti-inflammatory effects, according to a 2017 study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine. The study found that the consumption of capsaicin-rich foods, such as chili peppers, can reduce inflammation and also be used as a potential treatment in muscle-related diseases such as myotube atrophy. The more capsaicin the chili pepper has, the spicier it is. Today, you can find this compound in many creams and patches that are designed to provide pain relief. When capsaicin is applied on the skin, you block pain messages to your nerves –– allowing you to not feel the pain.
3. Chili Peppers Promote Satiety
“Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, has metabolism-boosting effects and may reduce hunger by lowering the production of the hormone ghrelin,” Nicole says. The hormone ghrelin increases appetite and plays a role in body weight. A 2017 review published in Bioscience Reports examined the impact of capsaicin in keeping one full for longer. Researchers found that dietary capsaicin consumption could activate brown adipose tissue, which transfers energy from food to heat. When brown fat burns, it results in a process called thermogenesis which burns calories and promotes satiety. While further research is needed to establish a clear link between capsaicin and weight loss, it has been studied to support healthy weight management.
Types of Chili Peppers
Just like spices, different types of chili peppers work for different dishes. Luckily, there are many varieties you can use for salads, salsas, soups, cocktails, tacos, and more to give it a zesty kick. The spiciness of each pepper is determined by its Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a measurement of how much capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, is present. The SHU ranges typically used to identify a pepper as mild, medium, hot, or extra hot are: Mild (100 to 2,500) Medium (2,500 to 30,000) Hot (30,000 to <350,000). There are over 50,000 types of peppers in the world, here are the ten most common ones along with their SHU:
- Bell Pepper (SHU: 0)
- Banana Pepper (SHU: 100-500)
- Pepperoncini (SHU: 100-500)
- Poblano (SHU: 1,000 - 2,000)
- Jalapeño (SHU: 2,500 - 5,000)
- Serrano (SHU: 6,000-23,000)
- Cayenne (SHU: 30,000-50,000)
- Tabasco (SHU: 30,000-50,000)
- Thai Chilli (SHU: 50,000-250,000)
- Habanero (SHU: 100,000-350,000)
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