How to live longer: Three ways eating chili peppers may boost your longevity

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Research continues to drill down into the most beneficial dietary items for boosting longevity. Chili peppers have ignited interest within the scientific community for this very reason. Studies have found eating chili pepper has an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer and blood-glucose regulating effect. This is due to capsaicin, the compound which gives chili pepper its characteristic mild to intense spice when eaten.

Preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions last year sought to establish the specific longevity benefits of eating chili peppers.

To analyse the effects of chili pepper on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality, researchers screened 4,729 studies from five leading global health databases (Ovid, Cochrane, Medline, Embase and Scopus).

Their final analysis includes four large studies that included health outcomes for participants with data on chili pepper consumption.

The health and dietary records of more than 570,000 individuals in the United States, Italy, China and Iran were used to compare the outcomes of those who consumed chili pepper to those who rarely or never ate chili pepper.

Compared to individuals who rarely or never ate chili pepper, the analysis found that people who ate chili pepper had:

  • A 26 percent relative reduction in cardiovascular mortality;
  • A 23 percent relative reduction in cancer mortality; and
  • A 25 percent relative reduction in all-cause mortality.

“We were surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all cause, CVD and cancer mortality,” said senior author Bo Xu, M.D., cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.

“It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health.”

Dr Xu continued: “The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer.

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“More research, especially evidence from randomised controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”

Dr Xu acknowledged that the exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain his findings are currently unknown.

“Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer.”

Dr. Xu said that there are several limitations to this type of study.

The four studies reviewed included limited specific health data on individuals or other factors that may have influenced the findings.

Dr Xu also noted that the amount and type of chili pepper consumed was variable among the studies, making it difficult to draw conclusions about exactly how much, how often and which type of chili pepper consumption may be associated with health benefits.

General dietary tips

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.

“This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight,” explains the NHS.

According to the health body, people with special dietary needs or a medical condition should ask their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice.

The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to:

  • Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least six to eight glasses a day).

If you’re having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts, advises the guide.

It also says to choose a variety of different foods from the five main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients.

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