If you always order the dish with the triple-chili-pepper symbol next to it, and your hot sauce collection is getting way too big for the pantry shelf you've crammed it into, you're in luck: A new study says chili peppers may help you live longer.
In a study conducted by the University of Vermont and published in the PLOS One journal, researchers observed 16,000 people over a period of 23 years, and found that the subjects who ate even a tiny amount of chili peppers were 13 percent less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than those who did not.
Anyone who ate any portion of chili peppers in a given month (ground peppers, such as chili flakes or cayenne seasoning, were not included) was counted as a chili pepper consumer, so there's no data in this study on the the variable of amount of peppers consumed versus the health impacts. Consider that good news for now: No need to chow down on fiery peppers every day, but include some in your diet and you're ahead of the game.
“Chili peppers have many life extending benefits and can be used in many meal preparation strategies, or even added to a lemon water and ginger and beet extract mix for a 4 oz. drink,” Dr. Philip Goglia, founder of G-Plans, who appears in Revenge Body (currently airing on E!) tells The Feast. “Capsaicin, which can be found in chilies, has been shown through past studies to have anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-diabetic properties. Additionally, it can reduce cholesterol levels in obese individuals,” says Goglia. He adds that hot peppers are rich in vitamin C and contain high levels of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron.
“Spicy foods and capsaicin may act as an antimicrobial,” adds Dr. Felicia D. Stoler, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Exercise Physiologist. “Consider that spicy or hot foods are used around the equator, where it is warmer (temperature wise). There is some thought that it does help with food safety, destroying microbes in food. It is also thought to help cool the body down, by heating up our 'internal' temperature,” says Stoler.
The findings in the University of Vermont study are more observational for now (i.e. they don't show direct cause and effect) but they do add to the positive recent press on capsaicin.
Chili peppers have been found to help balance out blood sugar levels, which can be useful in maintaining a healthy diet and weight. A previous study linked spicy foods to greater testosterone levels (which influences risk-taking). Hillary Clinton has also been said to enjoy chili peppers daily and to carry hot sauce in her purse.
No one said capsaicin helps you win elections, but it looks like there's plenty of reason to keep that hot sauce shelf in your pantry stocked.
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