Hot Red Chili Peppers for a Longer Life?

Individuals who ate red chili peppers had a lower risk of death from all causes than those who did not honor the spicy food, a study from the University of Vermont found.

Feb. 8, 2017
By Stav Dimitropoulos

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Since 1983, the famous rock band Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, led by the shirt­less Anthony Kiedis, have been turn­ing on fans around the world and demon­strat­ing remark­able longevity.

Now, it seems, their name­sake veg­etable could help you rock a lit­tle longer, too.

A large cohort study from the Larner Col­lege of Med­i­cine at the Uni­ver­sity of Ver­mont, which was co-authored by Ben­jamin Lit­ten­berg and Mustafa Chopan and was pub­lished in the Jan­u­ary issue of the jour­nal PLOS One, found that indi­vid­u­als who con­sumed red chili pep­pers had a lower risk of death from all causes over an aver­age of 18 years than those who did not eat the spicy food.

The study col­lected data from 16,179 adults aged 18 and over in the United States. Par­tic­i­pants answered the National Health and Nutri­tional Exam­i­na­tion Sur­vey III between 1988 and 1994.

We used a national data­base gen­er­ated by ques­tion­naires and lab­o­ra­tory mea­sure­ments. Par­tic­i­pants’ con­fir­ma­tive answers to a spe­cific ques­tion of hot red chili pep­per con­sump­tion was used to iden­tify our con­sumers ver­sus non-con­sumers,” researcher Mustafa Chopan told Olive Oil Times.


Sci­en­tists then looked at data from a median fol­low-up of 18.9 years using the National Death Index and ana­lyzed spe­cific causes of death. Fans” of chili pep­pers had a 13-per­cent decrease in total mor­tal­ity, and the asso­ci­a­tion was stronger for deaths from heart dis­ease or stroke.

The chili pep­per is the fruit of plants from the genus Cap­sicum, which belongs to the night­shade fam­ily, Solanaceae. Orig­i­nat­ing in Mex­ico and hav­ing a steady pres­ence in the diet of peo­ples of the Amer­i­cas since at least 7,500 B.C., chili pep­per vari­eties found them­selves in all cor­ners of the world after the Columbian Exchange.

What seems to sug­gest that this cel­e­brated plant can ward off the rav­ages of aging is the com­pound giv­ing it the inten­sity and fierce fla­vor, cap­saicin.

Cap­saicin, the prin­ci­pal com­po­nent found in the chili pep­pers, is hypoth­e­sized to account for the observed asso­ci­a­tion between chili pep­pers and longevity,” Chopan said. Cap­saicin acts through a fam­ily of recep­tors and has been shown to have anti-tumor, anti-inflam­ma­tory, meta­bolic and anti-micro­bial prop­er­ties in var­i­ous in vivo and in-vitro stud­ies. These prop­er­ties may pro­tect against chronic dis­eases.”

This fam­ily of recep­tors are called the Tran­sient Recep­tor Poten­tial (TRP) chan­nels and are pre­dom­i­nantly recep­tors for agents like cap­saicin.

The acti­va­tion of TRPV1, also known as the cap­saicin recep­tor and the vanil­loid recep­tor 1, more specif­i­cally, may trig­ger the acti­va­tion of cel­lu­lar mech­a­nisms against obe­sity, and this by mod­i­fy­ing medi­a­tors of lipid catab­o­lism and ther­mo­ge­n­e­sis. Such pro­tec­tion, log­i­cally, results in decreased risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar, meta­bolic, and lung dis­eases, as stated in the study.

It is impor­tant to note that our study does not estab­lish causal­ity; it sug­gests only an asso­ci­a­tion,” Chopan pointed out. We know that the asso­ci­a­tion between chili pep­per con­sump­tion and mor­tal­ity is not due to ran­dom error or social and lifestyle fac­tors, but some unmea­sured vari­able could con­found this rela­tion­ship. Even if it were causal, our study does not say much about poten­tial mech­a­nisms.”

Still, the Jan­u­ary 2017 study sup­ports 2015 research of about 500,000 Chi­nese peo­ple, which found that those who ate spicy food at a fre­quency of three times a week over a seven-year period decreased their risk of dying by 14 per­cent com­pared to those who abstained from spicy food.

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