OCT 31, 2017 11:54 AM PDT

Spicy Food Lowers Blood Pressure

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Eating more than one teaspoon of salt in one day goes against the recommendations of the American Heart Association, but eating bland food is no fun. A new study shows how spicy food can lower the desire for salt, subsequently lowering blood pressure and keeping it at a healthy level.

Experts say that a good way to cut down on salt consumption - and to lower your blood pressure - is to use a lot of spices during cooking.

High blood pressure, AKA hypertension, is one of the most frequently studied risk factors for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular disease. Scientists know that keeping blood pressure at a healthy level is vital for maintaining cardiovascular health. Certain foods, like those with lots of salt, can increase blood pressure, but eating spicy foods may help people resist the temptation of salty food.

“Trace amounts of capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their pungent smell, enhance[s] the perception of food being salty," explained senior study author Zhiming Zhu. Based on this finding, Zhu and his team of researchers from the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China wanted to see if eating spicy foods could also reduce salt consumption.

Capsaicin is one of several compounds called capasaicinoids, and what most people would describe as “hot” or “spicy” is actually not technically a taste but a different sensation; there are no taste buds associated with capsaicinoids.

In a study of 606 Chinese adults, researchers analyzed the varying preferences for salty and spicy flavors, looking for accompanying trends in blood pressure levels. They found that those with a “high spicy preference” had on average lower blood pressure and consumed less salt than people who liked spicy food the least.

A second part of the study involved imaging techniques to observe two parts of the brain, both associated with detecting a “salty” sensation: the insula and orbitofrontal cortex. Results showed that salty and spicy sensations in the brain shared similar detection areas. Additionally, spicy food increased brain activity in areas also activated by salt, increasing a person’s sensitivity to salt so they generally needed less to be satisfied with a food’s saltiness.

Zhu says that in general, a good way to cut down on salt consumption is to use a lot of spices during cooking: “Habit and preference matter when it comes to spicy food, but even a small, gradual increase in spices in your food may have a health benefit."

The present study was published in the journal Hypertension.

Sources: Northwestern University Helix Magazine, American Heart Association

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 05, 2018
Cardiology
DEC 05, 2018
Top 5 Medical Tests to Predict Heart Disease
  A group of five simple medical tests provides doctors and patients a long-term, wide-range glimpse into a person’s risk of developing heart di...
AUG 16, 2018
Cardiology
AUG 16, 2018
Binge Drinking and the Heart
You might want to consider your heart when you go out drinking, binge drinking may cause increased cardiovascular risk....
AUG 26, 2018
Cardiology
AUG 26, 2018
E-cigarette Use Doubles Risk of Heart Attack
Regular use of e-cigarettes shows similar risk of heart attack compared to conventional cigarettes, use of both doubles heart attack risk....
NOV 09, 2018
Cardiology
NOV 09, 2018
Lyme Disease And The Heart
In small-town New England, everyone knows the unique characteristic symptom of Lyme disease. A bulls-eye pattern rash around a tiny tick bite, infection gr...
DEC 24, 2018
Cardiology
DEC 24, 2018
Heart Attack Risk Highest On Christmas Eve
This year researchers used the Swedish Web System for Enhancement and Development of Evidence-Based Care in Heart Disease Evaluated According to Recommende...
JAN 11, 2019
Cardiology
JAN 11, 2019
Quality Sleep Protects The Heart
Research has revealed an association between not getting enough sleep and conditions of the heart such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obe...
Loading Comments...