The spice of life, it turns out, may be an actual spice.
New research links regular consumption of spicy foods with a longer life span. Researchers found an inverse relationship between consuming spicy foods and mortality rate.
The study, titled “Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause-specific mortality: population based cohort study,” was published this week in the British Medical Journal.
Researchers cautioned that the study was observational and did not reveal a definitive cause-and-effect relationship. They urged more research into the matter.
The study adds to existing research from smaller studies of the beneficial effects of bioactive ingredients, such as capsaicin, that are found in spicy foods.
Such beneficial effects include lower incidence of cancer. Bioactive ingredients in spices have also been shown to play beneficial roles in fighting obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, gastrointestinal conditions and skin conditions.
Lead study author Lu Qi, of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, tells CBS News:
“There’s accumulating evidence from mostly experimental research that shows the benefit of spices or their active components on human health. However, supportive data from population-based studies are sparse. For the first time, we reported that intake of spicy food might benefit health and lower risk of death in a large population. This is significant because consumption of spicy foods is common in many populations.”
For this study, Qi and fellow researchers examined the eating habits of more than 487,000 participants in China. Fresh and dried chili peppers were the most commonly consumed spices among participants who ate spicy foods on a weekly basis.
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