How eating chilies reduces risk of deaths from heart attack, stroke
Researchers have found another therapeutic property of chili peppers, as eating it regularly can cut the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. The team of researchers, in a recent study carried out in Italy, where chili is a common ingredient, compared the risk of death among 23,000 people, some of who ate chili and some of who did not.
The researchers used data from the Moli-Sani study, which had around 25,000 participants in the Molise region of southern Italy, where their health status and eating habits were monitored for over eight years. According to results published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the risk of dying from a heart attack was 40 percent lower among those eating chili peppers at least four times per week, while death from stroke was more than halve.
“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed,” said study lead author, Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed).“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,” she said.
The Director of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at Neuromed, Licia Iacoviello, who is also a Professor at the University of Insubria in Varese, explained that the beneficial properties of chili had been passed down through Italian food culture. “And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health,” said Iacoviello.However, the team of researchers now plans to investigate the biochemical mechanisms that make chili good for our health.
Meanwhile, external experts praised the study while pointing out some limitations.A registered Dietitian and Senior Teaching Fellow at Aston Medical School in the United Kingdom, Duane Mellor, described the paper as “interesting”, and do not show a causal link between chili consumption and health benefits.
Mellor said the positive effect of chili consumption observed in the study could be attributed to how the peppers are used in an overall diet.“It is plausible people who use chillies, as the data suggests also used more herbs and spices, and as such likely to be eating more fresh foods including vegetables,” he said.
“So, although chillies can be a tasty addition to our recipes and meals, any direct effect is likely to be small and it is more likely that it makes eating other healthy foods more pleasurable.”Also, a Nutrition Researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience in Norwich, England, Ian Johnson, praised the high-quality observational study for its robust methods.
He, however, pointed out that no mechanism for the protective effect was identified, nor did scientists find that eating more chili provided additional health benefits.“This type of relationship suggests that chillies may be just a marker for some other dietary or lifestyle factor that hasn’t been accounted for but, to be fair, this kind of uncertainty is usually present in epidemiological studies, and the authors do acknowledge this,” said Johnson.