Most of us know that we need food to live, but a new study published in BMJ has shown that spicy foods might boost one's lifespan. The findings of this study give new meaning to the saying "add a little spice to your life."
Health scientists have long known that spicy foods provide numerous health benefits, but there is very little information about how eating spicy foods on a daily basis affect mortality. Thus, researchers in China sought to find some answers.
Chinese researchers investigated the association between daily consumption of spicy foods and death. In order to accomplish this task, they recruited 487,375 adult men and women between the ages of 30 - 79 years of age, the recruitment process began in 2004 and ended in 2008.
The research scientists excluded people with a history of cancer, heart disease or stroke because those conditions could put such people at greater risk for early mortality.
Chinese scientists followed the participants for 7.2 years; during that time 8,404 women and 11, 820 men died (from the original 288,082 women and 199,293 study participants).
Scientists looked at the diets of the participants noting that rural residents tended to eat spicy foods on a daily basis whereas non-rural residents ate spicy foods 5 or less times per week.
When the Chinese researchers looked at mortality rates among the participants they found that people who ate spicy foods 6 or 7 times per week had a 14 % relative reduction in total mortality compared to people who consumed spicy foods less frequently, this was consistent for women and men.
Interestingly enough, rural participants who consumed spicy foods on a daily basis were also more prone to smoking and eating red meat. But after adjusting for those and other known risk factors, people who ate lots of spicy foods tended to live longer.
Why is this?
The answer might be found in an ingredient common to spicy foods. The scientists noted that chili peppers (one of the most popular spicy foods) contains capsaicin; many beneficial effects are attributed to this substance including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and glucose homeostasis properties.
In the Chinese study, Liming Li et al said that spicy foods lowered the risk of death from respiratory diseases, cancer, ischemic heart disease, diabetes and stroke. The team pointed out that the cardiovascular system is sensitive to capsaicin, and this could help in regulating cardiovascular function.
Moreover, chili pepper is rich in potassium and vitamins C, A, K, and B6. Thus, people who ate more of this and other spicy foods tended to be healthier.
Finally, the team noted that people who did not drink alcohol often lived longer than people who consumed even moderate amounts of alcohol. They believe that alcohol affects gut bacteria and that alcohol increases energy intake and thereby increasing mortality.
Liming et al acknowledged that disease status could affect spicy foods and alcohol intake thus they excluded people with heart disease, cancer and stroke from their study; they call for more studies to explore the mechanisms and validate their research findings.
Even though the study found an association between spicy foods and lower mortality, the team favors caution saying"[G]iven the observational nature of this study, it is not possible to make a causal inference. Further prospective studies in other populations would be essential to demonstrate generalizability of these findings. More evidence will lead to updated dietary recommendations and development of functional foods, such as herbal supplements."
We should always seek the Lord and be mindful of our thoughts and actions so that we do not grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells within us Christians. Why? Because God is our Friend.
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Lv J, Qi L, Yu C, Yang L, Guo Y, Chen Y, Bian Z, Sun D, Du J, Ge P, Tang Z, Hou W, Li Y, Chen J, Chen Z, Li L, & China Kadoorie Biobank collaborative group (2015). Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 351 PMID: 26242395
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