Good news for spicy food lovers: a recent seven-year study of hundreds of thousands of people has found that spicy foods may help you live longer.
The study, which was published in the medical journal BMJ, was conducted by researchers led by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Between 2004 and 2008, the researchers studied almost 500,000 men and women in China between the ages of 30 and 79 and recorded details about their health, physicality, alcohol consumption and their eating habits in regards to red meat, vegetables and spicy food intake.
Seven years later, researchers revisited the subjects and found that over 4% of them, or about 20,224 people, had died. Looking at factors such as age, marital status, education, exercise habits and medical issues within their family history, researchers noticed that individuals who ate spicy foods, specifically chilli peppers, at least once or twice a week had a 10% lower risk of death when compared to those who had avoided spicy foods.
For both men and women who ate spicy foods every day, the lower risk of death percentage was even higher at 14%. Additionally, those who ate fresh chilli peppers, specifically, experienced lower instances of death by cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers attribute the health benefits of chilli peppers to capsaicin, the main active component connected to “anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antihypertensive effects.” Even more, the antimicrobial properties of chilli peppers “may have an important effect on the gut microbiota in humans,” the study reports.
As in all studies, researchers made note of the variables that may have affected the results, including the fact that the data in the study was self-reported by subjects and observational in nature, meaning any correlations made must be verified through further research.
Lu Qi, the author of the study and an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, also warned CBS News that while spicy foods may be shown to offer some health benefits, eating too much is not advised, especially for those with sensitive stomachs:
“For those who are affected by digestive disorders such as a stomach ulcer, I would be cautious about eating spicy foods.”
For the many spicy sauce and chilli pepper lovers out there, it’s a good bet they’ll be using just a bit more Tabasco and Sriracha from now on.