New Italian research has found that people who eat chili peppers on a regular basis appear to have a lower risk of death than those who avoid the spicy ingredient.
Led by researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention of I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, the new study set out to investigate whether chili peppers, which are a common ingredient in Italian cuisine and the Mediterranean diet, may be linked with a lower risk of death in those who consume them regularly.
For the study the team looked at 22,811 adults living in the Molise region of Italy who were participating in the Moli-sani study. The participants' chili pepper intake was measured using a Food Frequency Questionnaire and categorized as none/rare consumption, up to two times per week, three or four times per week, and more than four times a week. They were then followed for an average of eight years.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), showed that participants who ate chili peppers four times a week or more had a 40 percent lower risk of dying of a heart attack compared to those who never or rarely ate them. In addition, the risk of dying from a stroke was more than halved.
"An interesting fact," added Marialaura Bonaccio, first author of the publication, "is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed. In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect."
The study is the first to investigate whether eating chili peppers could be linked to a lower risk of death in a European and Mediterranean population, although chili peppers have already been linked to a lower risk of death in Chinese and American populations.
"Chili pepper is a fundamental component of our food culture," commented researcher Licia Iacoviello. "We see it hanging on Italian balconies, and even depicted in jewels. Over the centuries, beneficial properties of all kinds have been associated with its consumption, mostly on the basis of anecdotes or traditions, if not magic. It is important now that research deals with it in a serious way, providing rigor and scientific evidence. And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health."