What spicy food made you sick

Capsaicin effect: live longer with spicy food

Healthy through spicy food

In some parts of China, people like to eat very spicy. That could be an extremely healthy habit, according to researchers from China, who asked people around the country about the spiciness of food - and death statistics.

The people who more often put chilli in their food had a lower risk of dying, they were more likely to avoid deaths from the heart and the respiratory tract, and their risk of cancer was also lower. This is what the doctors and nutritionists from Beijing report in their study, which was published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers used data from a large population study in China, for which more than half a million adults in ten parts of the country are regularly examined and interviewed. A question when the participants were enrolled in the study was: “How often have you eaten something spicy in the last month?” The possible answers ranged from “never” to “six to seven times a week”.

If someone said they ate spicy at least once or twice a week, the researchers wanted to know more. Where did the heat come from? Do people use fresh chili peppers or dried ones? Chili sauce or hot oil? A year and a half later, they checked a representative part of the study participants to see whether people had stayed true to their eating habits.

Capsaicin has anti-inflammatory and germicidal effects

Then, as is customary in such studies, the researchers waited a few years. People were between 30 and 79 years old when they filled out the questionnaire, that was between 2004 and 2008, and not chronically ill. The researchers waited for some of them to die. They waited until 2013.

Far more of the people who had eaten spicy less than once a week had died than of those who sharpened their food almost every day. The researchers emphasize that it is a statistical correlation.

It could be that people who eat spicier eat different foods, cook differently, live differently - and therefore live longer. However, there is ample evidence from other studies about the health-promoting effects of hot spices. The capsaicin contained in chili peppers has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antihypertensive effects in studies. Hot spices have been shown to have a germicidal effect. They could have a positive effect on the intestinal flora.

Eating spicy once or twice a week is enough

And what should you use to sharpen your food if you want to do something for your health? The people who ate fresh chili peppers seemed to benefit a little more, but that could also be due to the vitamins A, C and K that are still in the pods.

It is probably enough to eat spicy one or two days a week, the researchers write. However, they only want to give precise seasoning recommendations once the connection between chilli pepper and health has been researched in more detail.