Spicing Up Your Diet May Help You Live Longer

Longevity and the spice of life may actually be connected to... spiciness, or so says new research released in The BMJ Publishing Group.

spicy peppers

In this large study, researchers found that participants who ate spicy food, such as chili peppers, almost every day had a 14 percent chance of living longer than those people who forwent the spicy foods. Those people who ate more spicy food also had a reduced risk of death from cancer and heart disease. Researchers looked at the dietary habits of nearly half a million people, ages ranging from 30 to 70 from 10 different areas across China, excluding anyone with a history of heart disease, cancer or stroke. Each participant reported their alcohol consumption, health status, spicy food consumption and main source of that spiciness, as well as meat and vegetable intake.

The connection, the highly novel link that researchers have just started to uncover, between longevity and spicy foods could be due to some of the compounds in spicy foods, namely capsaicin, which is known to help manage weight and has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties. Fresh and dried chili peppers, which contain capsaicin, were the most commonly eaten spicy ingredients for this study population.

>> Read more: 22 Ways to Rev Up Your Metabolism

But researchers release this new information with a grain of salt. Daphne Miller, author of "The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World, Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You" said in a CNN article that this is "an observational study within a single culture." There are limitations to the study and things that may not have been factored in: how the food was prepared, other dietary habits or lifestyle choices that may differ across cultures.

spicy pumpkin seed
(Photo: In Sonnet's Kitchen)

>> Recipe: Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Meaning, now is not the time to go out and order spicy chili cheese fries, because consuming an individual component of food is different from consuming a whole dish.

Study author Lu Qi said that "spicy foods may also affect gut bacteria which has been related to various chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. However, we know little about why these may occur. More studies are definitely needed to clarify the mechanisms.”

When eating spicy foods, our body temperature rises and thermogenesis occurs, which increases the basal metabolic rate. An increase in BMR raises our metabolism and burns more calories, which could equate to a healthier, and thus longer, life.


However much more research is needed, Qi still maintains that the findings are valuable. He advises that increasing your intake of spicy foods (not increasing how spicy one food is) one to two times per week will create the similar protective effect that the researchers observed within this study. Experts have emphasized the need for more research to prove that spicy ingredients are directly correlated to longevity, but the new findings provide the starting point for that very research.

>> If you want to add more spice to your life, try out this sweet chili salmon.