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  • Sandy Todd Webster

Spicy Foods Can Extend Your Lifespan

Bring on the daily dose of wasabi, ghost peppers or hot chilies. Spicy foods can not only add life to your years; they can add years to your life, says a 2015 study.

Researchers in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also in Boston, published findings in the British Medical Journal (2015; 351:h3942) demonstrating that people who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14% chance of living longer than those who consume spicy foods less than once a week. Regular spicy-food eaters are also less likely to die from cancer or heart and respiratory diseases than those who eat spicy foods infrequently.

The researchers looked at health and dietary data gathered from 487,375 people, aged 30–79, who were enrolled between 2004 and 2008 in the China Kadoorie Biobank. Biobank participants with a history of cancer, heart disease or stroke were excluded from the study. During a median follow-up of 7.2 years, there were 11,820 deaths among men and 8,404 deaths among women.

Results showed that men and women who regularly ate spicy food were less likely to have died during the study period than those who ate spicy food less frequently. They were also less likely to have died from certain diseases, including cancer and heart and respiratory diseases. The association was observed after adjustments for other known or potential risk factors, and it was stronger in people who did not drink alcohol than in those who did.

Fresh and dried chili peppers were the most commonly used spices reported by the Chinese study population. Capsaicin and other bioactive ingredients in chili peppers have been found in previous studies to have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and anticancer properties, but the authors cautioned that more research is needed to determine if there is a direct link between these ingredients and a lower risk of death.

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