A new study published last month found an unexpected association between eating spicy foods and lowered risk of death. Eating fresh spicy foods as little as once a week may prolong life, according to this new research.
The study included over 450,000 men and women between 30 and 79 in China. Their diets and health histories were recorded and then researchers followed up with them around seven years later. The results show that those who ate fresh spicy foods once or twice a week had 10% lower mortality. Those who consumed spicy foods more than three days a week had a 14% lower risk of death.
Although the level of spiciness of foods was not considered, the most common sited spicy food among the subjects was fresh chili peppers, which are known to be quite hot. The results were consistent between gender, race, socioeconomic status, physicality and age. The study does not show a cause and effect relationship, but does indicate a strong correlation.
This research does not propose why spicy foods may be a winning ingredient in longevity in life; however there are several existing theories that may shed some light on the findings. Animal trials show promising signs that spices have protective effects. These include lowering harmful cholesterol levels, encouraging healthy flora in the gut, managing oxidation that threatens the health of cells and reducing inflammation.
The reason for these positive results in animal trials is likely due to the high antioxidant content in spices. Spices are used for a variety of medicinal and therapeutic purposes and have long been recognized for their excellent nutrients, especially antioxidants. Antioxidants help combat free radicals and other foreign substances that cause oxidative stress on cells. Free radicals can mutate cells and lead to disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and other serious conditions. Peppers also have capsaicin, which reduces inflammation, the root cause of many diseases.
Additionally, spices are a simple way to flavor food without adding fat and excess calories. Flavoring with spices rather than heavy sauces, oils, creams and butters may be a preventative health measure by reducing consumption of fats and calories too.
So go on and spice up your food. It may help you live longer!