Researchers presented preliminary data at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2020 that suggested that eating chili peppers can help people extend their lifespan, and could have a significant influence on the reduction of cardiovascular disease and cancer risk.
The researchers analyzed health and dietary records from over 570,000 Americans, Italians, Chinese, and Iranians and compared health outcomes for people who had reported consuming chili pepper and those who rarely or never ate it.
This work confirmed previous studies that have suggested that chili peppers have an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and blood sugar-regulating impact when they're eaten. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which is thought to be the reason for these observations.
Compared to those that did not, people that ate chili peppers had a 26 percent reduction in death due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), a 23 percent reduction in death from cancers, and an overall 25 percent reduction in 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. It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health," said the senior research author Bo Xu, M.D., a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic's Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.
"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. More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings," Dr. Xu continued.
Dr. Xu also noted that this study has several limitations. It encompassed a review of four studies, and there was only limited data on the specifics of individuals' health or other factors that may be affecting the findings.
There are also many types of chili peppers, with varying amounts of capsaicin, and which were consumed at different levels. It's challenging to identify specific types of peppers that might be better than others who may have certain effects.