We like our food hot, so new research saying hot peppers may aid the heart is welcome news! We have written before about the fact that capsaicin found in peppers may help weight loss, and this new find makes them even more attractive to us.
We are always looking for small changes that can add up to larger results. We don’t believe in magical foods or miracle cures. However, we do think that eating a wide array of good foods can help us live happy, healthy lives.
A study with 23,000 people suggested that having chili peppers as a normal part of a diet lowers the risk of death from a stroke or heart disease. The researchers in Italy tracked people for eight years. The risk of having a heart attack was 40 percent lower for people who ate chilis four times a week. Stroke deaths were decreased by over half.
“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed,” said study lead author Marialaura Bonaccio. “In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but, for all of them, chili pepper has a protective effect.”
The researchers didn’t look at the vegetable on a chemical level. They believe it might be linked to the capsaicin. It must be noted that this could be a correlation and not a causation. Perhaps people who used chilis to flavor their food used less salt. Maybe their diet included more whole foods that the people who didn’t ingest peppers regularly.
With such a large study, the find does seem significant despite the uncertainty about it. The researchers didn’t see the same connection between heart health and chili powder.
“This type of relationship suggests that chilies may be just a marker for some other dietary or lifestyle factor that hasn’t been accounted for,” said Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience. “But, to be fair, this kind of uncertainty is usually present in epidemiological studies, and the authors do acknowledge this.”
While the study didn’t look at the chemical makeup of the peppers, it did look at income, medical history, lifestyle and exercise habits of the participants to be sure outside factors weren’t what was causing the healthier heart outcomes. Bizarrely, the people who ate chilis frequently were more likely to have higher blood lipids, higher BMI, hypertension and diabetes. This suggests that the help from the chilis maybe be separate from typical heart health risk factors.
We always suggest speaking to your doctor before making changes to your routine. While chilis may be useful for people generally, there might be some reason in your medical history or current routine that makes hot peppers not right for you. Hopefully, you’ll be cooking with hot peppers more in your future, “spicing” up your diet and helping heart health!