Science

Eating Spicy May Help Us To Live Longer

By Vlad Tverdohleb , Aug 05, 2015 12:26 AM EDT

Researchers found that consuming more spicy foods can help us having a longer life. According to a new study, frequently eating spicy foods may be tied to a slightly lower risk of an earlier death. The study was published in The BMJ journal, on Aug 4.

The research studied the eating habits of a sample composed of nearly 500,000 people in China. The participants in the study were asking how often they ate spicy foods.

The study group was composed of people with ages between 30 and 79 at the moment when the study started. The participants in the study were followed up for about seven years. During this period around 20,000 of the people died.

Researchers found that those participants in the study who ate spicy foods less than once a week were more likely to die (by 10 percent) compared with those who ate spicy foods one or two days a week. Moreover, compared with those participants in the study who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those people who consumed spicy foods three or more days a week were 14 percent less likely to die during the study.

However, it is too early to conclude whether is a casual relationship between lower mortality and eating spicy foods, since the study was observational, according to Lu Qi, study author and an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. He explained in an interview for Live Science that the scientific community will "need more data from other populations."

The scientists did not provide yet an explanation why exactly the consumption of spicy food may lead to lower mortality in human populations. However, some previous research on animals and cells has suggested a few possible mechanisms, according to Qi. For instance, the consumption of spicy foods has been found to improve the breakdown of fat in the body, lower inflammation and change the composition of gut bacteria, the scientist said.

In this new study, the scientists also asked the participants to specify their main sources of spices typically used, from a list including dried chili pepper, fresh chili pepper, chili oil and chili sauce. The most frequently used types of spices among the participants in the study who ate spicy food at least once a week were fresh and dried chili peppers, the researchers said.

However, it is too early to conclude whether chili is simply a marker for other beneficial but unmeasured dietary components or the associations observed are the direct results of chili intake, according to Nita Forouhi. The nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom was not involved in the study, but rather commented on the study in an editorial published with the study in the same journal.

Forouhi wrote that, at this point, we do not know for sure whether eating spicy foods can have a beneficial effect on longevity and human health and future research will establish whether spicy food consumption has the potential to directly reduce mortality and improve health or if it is merely a marker of other lifestyle and dietary factors," the nutritional epidemiologist said.

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