Hey Hot Stuff! New Study Suggests Spicy Foods Can Make You Live Longer

Check out this 'Hot of the press' Chinese study detailing the health benefits of spicy food consumption.

A large scale longitudinal study published in the BMJ concluded that eating spicy foods (think chili peppers) may reduce the risk of developing some forms of cancer and heart disease. This is pretty exciting considering the fact that these are the top two killers among the U.S. population. 

This research study utilized the China Kadoorie Biobank data collected from 2004 to 2008 of nearly half a million people aged 30 to 70, living across 10 regions in China, and with no records of heart disease, cancer, or stroke. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences analyzed data collected by self-report questionnaires regarding dietary habits such as the frequency of consumption of spicy foods (mainly fresh and dried chili peppers), red meat, alcohol, and vegetables.  

After a seven-year period, researchers examined the 20,224 people who had died since then to see if a connection between diet, disease and mortality risk exists. It was seen that those who added that good ol’ spice to their diet nearly every day were found to have a 14% lower risk of premature death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and respiratory system diseases as compared to those who consumed spicy foods less than once a week. These benefits were slightly greater for women than men. Those who did not drink alcohol showed the greatest benefits.

The believed explanation is that capsaicin, a bioactive ingredient found in chili peppers, is to thank for this outcome. Chili peppers (especially fresh ones) are also high in vitamins C, A, K, B6, and potassium. Furthermore, spicy foods are also believed to lower inflammation, improve metabolic status and have a positive effect on gut bacteria and weight.

It is important to note that much more research is still necessary in order to distinguish whether spicy foods have a protective effect on your life span, but this does hint that an association may actually exist between the two.

We may not yet be able to prescribe spice as a formal medical treatment, but you can go ahead and enjoy your next spicy meal even more than before! 

Some cool ways to add chili peppers to your diet:

Chili Pepper Salt:

What you'll need:

1-1/2 cup coarse sea salt

1 cup fresh chilies with the stems removed, left whole. Seed removal is optional.

What to do:

Add chilies to a small food processor bowl and pulse until finely minced.

Add salt

Continue to pulse until everything is in an orange/ pink in color.

Store in an airtight container.

Note: Although this can be used instantly, storing for about a week will better distribute the chili flavor.

Gluten-free Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

3 red chili peppers

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp water

Instructions:

Chop up chili peppers in a small food processor. Remove seeds from peppers if you desire less of a spicey kick

Combine chopped chili peppers, garlic, and the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat on medium until the mixture boils.

Turn sauce down to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Combine the cornstarch with 2 tbsp of water in a small bowl. Mix well

Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the chili sauce and allow to simmer for a few more minutes until the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat, store in a glass jar, refrigerate... and enjoy! 

Author: Gal Shyli Dayan