Whether you enjoy the spicy flavour of chilli peppers or not, new research suggests that there may be some serious medical benefits to adding them to your next meal.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology earlier this month, examined the effects of regular chili pepper consumption on overall mortality, revealing that those who incorporate the fiery veggie into their diets have a lower risk of death from any cause.
The study was carried out in Italy, where chili is a common ingredient. It compared the risk of death among 23 000 men and women who were 35 years old or older, some of whom ate chilli and some of whom didn’t.
Participants’ health status and eating habits were monitored over eight years.
The researchers found that if eaten regularly, it could lower your risk of death by all chronic illnesses by as much as 23%.
People who consumed meals containing chillies at least four times a week had up to a 40% lower risk of dying of heart attack, and a nearly 50% lower risk of dying of a stroke or other brain condition, CNN reports.
What’s more, researchers found that fans of spicy chillies had – even if other parts of their diet were less healthy – better overall health compared to people who didn’t eat them.
Even people with other risk factors for chronic illness, such as diabetes, hypertension, or a family history of heart problems, enjoyed health benefits from eating chillies, according to the study.
“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed,” said lead study author Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute.
“In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chilli pepper has a protective effect.”
Although it’s not yet clear what makes the spicy veg so good for disease prevention, capsaicin, a compound that causes the mild burning sensation of spicy foods in small doses, seems to play a role.
In large amounts, capsaicin can be painful and even toxic, but previous research has shown that the low doses found in peppers has a myriad health benefits, including boosting metabolism and lowering blood pressure.