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Load Your Tacos Up With Hot Sauce Because A New Study Shows That Eating Chilies Is Good For Your Health

Chilies have been hailed as a holy grail food by many for its flavor and mythic health properties. Now, researches in Italy have found that consuming chilies as a part of your regular diet can lower the risk of death from stroke and heart disease.

Researchers monitored almost 23,000 people’s health status and eating habits for over eight years. Using data pulled from the Moli-sani study which has 25,000 participants from the Molise region of southern Italy. The study found that the risk of dying from a heart attack was lower by a whopping 40 percent among the participants who reported eating chili peppers four times a week at least. The risk of death from stroke was lowered by over 50 percent.

It doesn’t matter what else you eat, as long as you eat chili peppers.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and demonstrated that regardless of what the individual’s broader diet was, simply the inclusion of chili peppers reduced the potential risk.

“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed,” Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed) and study lead author, told CNN. “In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect.”
Call it a win for every country that was colonized for their spices — it’s not just the melanin! In Italy, the peppers usage has been consistent in its cuisine.
“And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health,” Licia Lacoviello, director of the department of epidemiology and prevention at Neuromed, told CNN.

Similar studies in the United States and China show that chiles are good for your health.

Lacoviello might be referencing a 2015 BMJ study that analyzed 487,375 people across 10 Chinese regions in the country. The study found that those who ate spicy foods six to seven times a week at least had 14 percent lower risks of death than participants who ate spices only once a week.
The BMJ study echoed Bonaccio’s earlier point, it suggested that people who ate spicier foods generally had poorer health habits but they still benefitted from the chilies. However, those who frequently ate chilies and excluded alcohol benefitted the most.
In 2017, a PLOS ONE study in the United States analyzed date from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. Of the 16,179 Americans surveyed those who ate red chili peppers had a 13 percent lower death risk than those who didn’t.

So what makes these peppers slap so hard? It’s scientific.

It’s all about the spice. Peppers high capsaicin, like the spicy Carolina Reaper, were the ones that lowered the death risks in study participants.

“In general the association of sweet peppers with mortality were less strong than the ones of chili peppers, suggesting a role for capsaicin,” Bonaccio said.

Other peppers, like sweet bell peppers, which are low in capsaicin due to a recessive gene were less beneficial.

 “In a large adult Mediterranean population, regular consumption of chili pepper is associated with a lower risk of total and CVD death independent of CVD risk factors or adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Known biomarkers of CVD risk only marginally mediate the association of chili pepper intake with mortality,” the study concluded. 

However, skeptics are less enthusiastic about finding the study conclusive. Duane Mellor, a dietitian at Aston Medical School in the United Kingdom told CNN the study “does not show a causal link.” 

“It is plausible people who use chilies, as the data suggests also used more herbs and spices, and as such likely to be eating more fresh foods including vegetables,” Mellor said. “So, although chilies can be a tasty addition to our recipes and meals, any direct effect is likely to be small and it is more likely that it makes eating other healthy foods more pleasurable.”
However, the study from China noted the opposite (that people who ate spicy foods had poorer diets) and it had the largest sample of the three studies.

“This type of relationship suggests that chilies may be just a marker for some other dietary or lifestyle factor that hasn’t been accounted for but, to be fair, this kind of uncertainty is usually present in epidemiological studies, and the authors do acknowledge this,” Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher, told CNN.

More research is needed because other factors could contribute to the observed effect, however, three studies in three different countries with very large samples are highly suggestive of the chilies’ benefits. 

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