All foods have their advantages and disadvantages. Chili peppers are no exception. A new study shows that eating chili peppers regularly may actually reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke (1).
The study took place in Italy, where chilies are a common ingredient. It included 23,000 people and compared the risk of death among all of them, with some eating chilies regularly, others – from time to time, and some – never. The study was conducted over a period of eight years and was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
According to the results, people who ate chili peppers at least four times each week had a 23 per cent lower risk of death overall. The risk of dying from stroke was more than halved, and death from heart attack was 40 per cent lower.
Marialaura Bonaccio, the lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed) said that “An interesting fact 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.”
This study also used data from the Moli-Sani study (2) which was conducted in the Molise region in Southern Italy and included 25,000 people.
Licia Iacoviello, the director of the department of epidemiology and prevention at Neuromed and a professor at the University of Insubria in Varese also elaborated on the benefits of eating chili peppers.
“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.”
Further investigation of the biochemical mechanisms that make chili good for our health is also to come.
Other professionals, such as registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School, Duane Mellor notes that there’s no causal relationship between chilies and the reduction of stroke or heart attack risks.
“It is plausible people who use chilies, as the data suggests also used more herbs and spices, and as such likely to be eating more fresh foods including vegetables,” Mellor said. “So, although chilies can be a tasty addition to our recipes and meals, any direct effect is likely to be small and it is more likely that it makes eating other healthy foods more pleasurable.”
Similarly, a nutrition researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience in Norwich, England by the name of Ian Johnson praised the study but also mentioned that the protective mechanism of chilies hasn’t been identified nor the possible benefit of increased intake.
“This type of relationship suggests that chilies may be just a marker for some other dietary or lifestyle factor that hasn’t been accounted for but, to be fair, this kind of uncertainty is usually present in epidemiological studies, and the authors do acknowledge this.”
So, carry on eating chili peppers because they add a depth of flavour to your food that would be impossible to achieve any other way. Taste is reason enough to use it in your meals.