Does eating spicy foods have health benefits?

Spices like turmeric and foods like chili peppers have been touted in recent years for their perceived health benefits, but research about consumption of spicy things has been mixed.

According to an April 6, 2020 article, while chili peppers and turmeric have been widely studied, it can be difficult to separate correlation from causation. For example, if people use spices on their food to replace salt, it could be the reduced salt intake that provides a health benefit — not necessarily the addition of spices.

The article cited a 2015 study co-authored by Lu Qi, adjunct professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, that found a link between frequent consumption of spicy foods and living longer. Qi and his colleagues examined the health effects of eating chili peppers and other chili products among nearly 500,000 Chinese adults. After controlling for lifestyle factors including age, sex, education, marital status, and diet, the researchers found that those who consumed spicy food almost every day had a 14% lower risk of premature death than those who consumed it less than once per week.

According to Qi, the positive effect found in the study may be in part due to capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers that produces a burning sensation. “Certain ingredients in spicy foods, such as capsaicin, have been found to improve metabolic status, such as lipid profiles and inflammation, and these may partly account for the observations in our study,” he said.

Read the article: Are there benefits to eating turmeric and other spices?

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Frequent spicy food consumption linked with longer life