Preliminary research from this week’s issue of BMJ suggests that spicy food might actually be super beneficial for our health, with perks ranging from a boosted metabolism all the way to decreased risk of heart disease and cancer!
This all comes from a study in China that surveyed over 487,375 participants for about 7.2 years, asking questions about their diet and general health, as well as how often they ate spicy foods. The Washington Post reports, “After controlling for age, gender, level of education, marital status, alcohol consumption, smoking, health history, and other variables, the researchers found an inverse relationship between eating spicy foods and risk of death.”
The results were pretty clear: people who ate spicy foods between one and two times a week had a 10% lower risk of fatal disease than those who did not, and when that number is upped to three to seven times a week, participants had a 14% lower risk.
This research comes after a pretty big upswing in the trendiness of spicy food. Hungry restaurant-goers are opting more and more for curries and burritos, and with things like sriracha keychains and Doritos Roulette, our palates just can’t get enough of that fiery goodness. Is that because it’s actually good for us? How? One idea is that capsaicin, the molecule in spicy food that makes your mouth feel so crazy, is the magic ingredient. That specific molecule has already been reported to have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-hypertensive qualities.
Before we start celebrating, there are a few more things that need to be determined. These results don’t necessarily mean that spicy food directly causes a longer life, nor is the study entirely comprehensive when it comes to the amount and strength of the spices consumed. For example, it’s unclear as to how other dietary habits affected the participants’ health, or whether the quantity or strength of chilis eaten matters.
These are all questions for another study, but suffice to say, if this news is true, that line at Chipotle is going to get even longer. Worth it!