More evidence people who fear death after biting into something dangerously hot have it all wrong: A new study, building on a prior link, suggests the complete opposite — that, in fact, your mouth of fire might actually translate to extra years of life. Writing in PLOS ONE, Scientists from the University of Vermont College of Medicine looked at 16,179 adults who completed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 and 1994. Roughly 34 percent died over the next 19 years, but when the authors limited data to the cohort that consumed red chili peppers, only about 22 percent of them died. They say their findings support linking it to lower mortality from any cause, but that it was strongest for fatal vascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.
The team argues their study strengthens the previous findings because this time they looked at more than just Chinese adults, but admit further study is necessary before advising everyone adopt one-cayenne-a-day diets. What part of the pepper might be so amazing remains somewhat ambiguous too, though it’s probably “down to” capsaicin, the compound that makes peppers hot. Past research has shown spicy foods can protect against high cholesterol and obesity, and even have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects that could be useful in preventing diseases. In this study, the authors assume the capsaicin sped up lipid catabolism and thermogenesis in participants’ bodies, reducing their likelihood of obesity and “risk of cardiovascular, metabolic, and lung diseases.”
They conclude that eating hot peppers is associated “with a 13 percent reduction in the instantaneous hazard of death,” which is science-ese for something technical, but surely no layperson can be faulted for feeling justified in always making the knee-jerk decision to use the super-atomic-level hot sauce.