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Inspired living

Spicy food prolongs life


Assorted spices and herbs over dark old wood

Credit:123RF

The world divides itself along many lines; there are the wine-lovers and the beer drinkers, the cyclists and the motorists, and then there are those who love spicy food and the spice-wimps. This last categorisation is one that cannot be hidden, especially when you dine out for Thai or Indian; where some of the group will fearlessly order anything with as many whole chillies as possible others will timidly ask, “Could I have that one mild please?” As the waiter scornfully says, “Of course”, dripping with disdain, the spice wimp wants to crawl into a corner of the restaurant and now they have another reason to despair for it seems that spicy foods can actually help you live longer.

Specifically, spicy food consumption was associated with lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and respiratory diseases.

For the study researchers looked at data gathered from more than 487,000 participants in the China Kadoorie Biobank. The study subjects were enrolled between 2004 and 2008 and followed for disease incidence and death outcomes. All of the subjects also completed a questionnaire about general health, physical measurements and consumption of spicy foods, red meat, vegetables, and alcohol.

The average follow up time of the study was 7.2 years and the results showed that compared to people who ate spicy foods less than once a week people who ate spicy dishes once or twice a week were at a 10 per cent reduced risk of death from any cause. Those who ate spicy foods three to five or six to seven days a week were at a 14 per cent reduced risk of death. The association between spicy food and reduced death risk held true across both women and men and was more pronounced in people who do not drink alcohol.

Specifically, spicy food consumption was associated with lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and respiratory diseases.

Fresh and dried chilli were the most common food “spice” used and analysis showed that fresh chilli tended to produce more protection against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

It might be that ingredients in spices like chilli are the key to these effects. Chilli for instance, contains capsaicin and vitamin C and both ingredients are more plentiful in fresh chilli than dried chilli. Capsaicin is known to have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer actions. It might also be that people who to choose to cook food regularly using fresh chilli are also more likely to make other healthy life choices.

Whatever the mechanism, it seems as though it is worth thinking about spicing up your life.



 

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.