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Health benefits from spicy foods


August 10, 2015
By Bakers Journal

Aug. 10, 2015, London – Eating spicy food frequently is associated with a lower risk of death, suggests a new study published in The BMJ.

An international team led by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medicinal Sciences examined the association between consumption of spicy foods as part of a daily diet and the total risk and causes of death. They undertook a prospective study of 487,375 participants between the ages of 30 and 79 from the China Kadoorie Biobank. Participants were enrolled between 2004 and 2008, and followed up for morbidities and mortality.

All participants completed a questionnaire about their general health, physical measurements, and consumption of spicy foods, red meat, vegetables and alcohol.

Participants with a history of cancer, heart disease and stroke were excluded from the study, and factors such as age, marital status, level of education and physical activity were accounted for.

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During a median follow-up of 7.2 years, there were 20,224 deaths reported.

Compared with participants who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods one or two days per week were at a 10 per cent reduced risk of death. And those who ate spicy foods three to five and six to seven days per week were at a 14 per cent reduced risk of death. In other words, participants who ate spicy foods almost every day had a relative 14 per cent lower risk of death compared to those who consumed spicy foods less than once a week.

The association was similar in both men and women, and was stronger in those who did not consume alcohol.

Frequent consumption of spicy foods was also linked to a lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart and respiratory system disease. This was more evident in women than men.

Fresh and dried chilli peppers were the most commonly used spices in those who reported eating spicy foods weekly, and further analysis showed those who consumed fresh chilli tended to have a lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease and diabetes.

The authors explained that some of the bioactive ingredients in spices are likely to drive this association. They noted that fresh chilli is richer in capsaicin, vitamin C and other nutrients. However, they caution against linking any of these with lowering the risk of death.