Claims that spicy foods provide health benefits have circulated for centuries. Now, scientists might be able to explain why.
In 2014, the National Center For Biotechnology Information claimed that cardamom, a spice used to make chai tea, was “linked to anti-tumor activity,” according to The Washington Post. That’s just one spice in a list of several that have been suggested to have medicinal properties.
Now, thanks to a study completed by the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, analyzed lifestyle data and mortality rates from more than 16,000 adults concluded that a compound in peppers has the ability to prevent factors that lead to heart disease and stroke.
In order to conduct this study, the authors used the Center for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey between 1988 to 1994, as the sample size in which to prove that the consumption of chili peppers — specifically capsaicin, the active component within them — can actually help you live longer.
The illustration above shows a very simple depiction of where peppers contain capsaicin. It was found under the “capsaicin” hashtag on Instagram.
In short, the study found that people who regularly consumed capsaicin “had a 13 percent lower hazard of death compared to those who did not.”
Additionally, the study went on to claim that capsaicin actually acted like “an anti-obesity mechanism due to the interaction with the body’s transient receptor potential channels.” Transient receptor potential channels are different types of receptors that help regulate sensations like temperature and pressure.
Here’s an excerpt of the findings, pulled from the Discussion section of the study:
“Activation of TRP vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) appears to stimulate cellular mechanisms against obesity, by altering mediators of lipid catabolism and thermogenesis . Protection against obesity leads to decreased risk of cardiovascular, metabolic and lung diseases.” — The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study
Adding to the benefits of capsaicin, chili peppers also contain A, C, and B vitamins, all of which are essential to healthy diets.
What’s most important about these findings is that the study correlates positive reinforcement to already existing scientific studies that hypothesize that there are multiple health benefits to including spicy foods in a healthy diet.
The peer-reviewed study emphasizes that while there is no concrete evidence that eating peppers will lead to immortality — nor hold the keys to the fountain of youth — more research on this topic will only bring forth new concepts and knowledge that might benefit mankind.
“Such evidence may lead to new insights into the relationships between diet and health, updated dietary recommendations, and the development of new therapies.”
So now, in the days where spicy challenges seem to be a popular trend, no matter how masochistic the act of eating hot chili peppers may seem, it’s safe to say there’s nothing like the sensation of a fiery mouth and a scorching, swollen set of lips that will look for anything to ease the pain.
Still, we insist on going back for more, and according to science, that’s a good thing.