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With increasing chili consumption, overall mortality decreases
There is a connection between our daily diet and health. Numerous scientific studies have already proven this. What is new, on the other hand, is the realization that life expectancy increases with increasing consumption of chilli. At least that was determined by scientists from Beijing University, who published their results in the "British Medical Journal". However, the background is still unclear.
Chilli consumption is directly related to all-cause mortality, although it has not yet been conclusively clarified whether it is actually a causal relationship, the researchers report under Professor Jun Lv from the Beijing University Health Science Center.
In particular, capsaicin, but also other ingredients in chilli, are said to have numerous health-promoting properties. The Chinese scientists have therefore investigated to what extent the consumption of fresh or dried chillies, chilli oil and chilli sauce influences overall mortality.
Many potential health benefits have been linked to chillies and their bioactive compound capsaicin, including an antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effect, as well as a positive impact on the intestinal flora and a preventive effect against obesity, reports Nita G. Forouhi from the University of Cambridge in an editorial to the current study. Chillies therefore apparently also have an effect on overall mortality, so that the risk of premature death is significantly reduced when consumed heavily.
Almost half a million study participants
For their current study, the scientists used the data from 199,293 men and 288,082 women who were between 30 and 79 years old at the start of the study. The subjects came from ten different regions in China. A total of 20,224 study participants (11,820 men and 8,404 women) died during the observation period (7.2 years on average). The researchers had also recorded the consumption of spicy food in the form of dried or fresh chillies, chilli oil and chilli sauce, and divided the test subjects into four different groups based on this. The first group consumed spicy food less than once a week.
Subjects in the second group said they ate spicy one or two days a week. The third group ate spicy food three to five days a week, and in the fourth group the subjects ate spicy food six to seven days a week.
Significantly reduced risk of overall mortality with high chili consumption
In comparison to the study participants in the first group, the subjects with the highest consumption of spicy foods showed a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality within the study period, the scientists report.
This connection has also been confirmed for specific causes of death such as coronary artery disease, respiratory diseases and cancer. Overall, the risk of death among the subjects with the highest chilli consumption compared to those with the lowest consumption was 14 percent lower during the study period, the researchers write.
The risk of death was also significantly lower in the second and third groups than in the first group. However, it cannot automatically be concluded that there is a certain degree of uncertainty regarding the data considered.
Causality has not been clearly clarified
While the enormous sample size and the broad regional distribution are among the statistical strengths of the study, there are various weaknesses with regard to the data situation. For example, only three other factors of the basic diet were recorded (consumption of red meat, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit). Here, other eating habits that correlate with the consumption of spicy foods could have a significant impact on the lifespan without being recorded.
Chili consumption may just be a marker for eating other beneficial foods, explains Nita G. Forouhi. The effect has also been relativized, for example, with simultaneous alcohol consumption. Overall mortality among those who regularly consumed alcohol did not decrease despite the spicy food. Normal drinking habits could also play a role, since it is very likely that drinks such as water or various types of tea will be consumed in larger quantities by those with a higher chilli intake. Here, the causes of the changed overall mortality could possibly be found in drinking behavior.
Further studies are to examine the benefits of spicy foods
The scientists conclude that further research is needed to determine whether spicy foods have the potential to improve health. It is also important to determine whether chillies directly affect health or may just be a marker for other factors that reduce mortality.
The current results are in any case a good basis for further research in this area. They form the basis for a hypothesis that must now be examined further, explain Professor Jun Lv and colleagues. In the end, the result could actually be that significantly more spicy foods should be consumed in order to increase life expectancy. (sb, fp)