Individuals who consume chili pepper may live longer and may have a significantly reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.
Previous studies have found eating chili pepper has an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer and blood-glucose regulating effect due to capsaicin, which gives chili pepper its characteristic mild to intense spice when eaten. To analyze the effects of chili pepper on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality, researchers screened 4,729 studies from five leading global health databases (Ovid, Cochrane, Medline, Embase and Scopus). Their final analysis includes four large studies that included health outcomes for participants with data on chili pepper consumption.
The health and dietary records of more than 570,000 individuals in the United States, Italy, China and Iran were used to compare the outcomes of those who consumed chili pepper to those who rarely or never ate chili pepper. Compared to individuals who rarely or never ate chili pepper, the analysis found that people who ate chili pepper had:
- a 26% relative reduction in cardiovascular mortality;
- a 23% relative reduction in cancer mortality; and
- a 25% relative reduction in all-cause mortality.
“We were surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all cause, CVD and cancer mortality. It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health,” said senior author Bo Xu, M.D., cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. “The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer. More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”
Dr. Xu said that there are several limitations to this type of study. The four studies reviewed included limited specific health data on individuals or other factors that may have influenced the findings. Researcher also noted that the amount and type of chili pepper consumed was variable among the studies, making it difficult to draw conclusions about exactly how much, how often and which type of chili pepper consumption may be associated with health benefits. The researchers are continuing to analyze their data and hope to publish the full paper soon.