If you’re a fan of spicy foods, then add liberally: A new study has found that eating red hot chile peppers is associated with a 13% reduction in all-cause mortality, specifically death caused by heart attack or stroke. Published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, the study was conducted by medical student Mustafa Chopan and Benjamin Littenberg, MD, at Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. Their findings corroborate a 2015 study out of China that suggested a link between consuming chile peppers and reduced mortality rates.
While the results are exciting, Dr. Littenberg stresses there are limitations. “These data show an association, but we don’t know for sure that eating peppers extends life,” he says. “We don’t even know if it matters how much you eat, what kind or how hot they have to be.” Capsaicin, the main component in chile peppers, is believed to help prevent obesity and regulate blood flow to the heart. It is also thought to have antimicrobial properties that are beneficial to the gut.
The research may lead to further studies or changes in dietary recommendations. The best advice for living a long, healthy life remains the same: “Eat fewer calories, avoid excess alcohol, exercise regularly, quit smoking and get a flu shot,” says Dr. Littenberg.
Add some healthy heat to your diet. Try these clean chile recipes: