Go ahead, pile on the chili peppers, it just might help your heart stay healthy. New findings by researchers in Italy suggest that regular consumption of chili peppers may reduce the long-term risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The research team followed the health habits and outcomes of more than 28,000 people from southern Italy from 2005 to 2010. About one-third of the study’s participants said they rarely or never ate chili peppers, while about one-fourth said they ate them often — at least four times a week.
Compared with those who didn’t indulge in chili peppers or did so infrequently, the chili pepper aficionados had a lower overall risk of death from all causes as well as from heart disease, cardiovascular ailments and brain issues. Chili pepper consumption appeared to have the greatest reductions in death from ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, in which blood flow to the brain is somehow compromised.
Eating chili peppers also seemed to lessen some effects of an otherwise bad diet.
And those who followed a healthy Mediterranean diet — more fish, fruits and veggies, less red meat and sugar — as well as those who ate less-healthy foods got protective effects from the chili peppers.
Researchers say there is more work to be done. In particular, they want to determine whether chili peppers can amplify the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. In other words, merely adding chili peppers to an otherwise poor diet may not be a magic bullet for better health.
But the new research suggests that chowing down on chili peppers can do your heart some good — that is, if you can stand the heat.