There may be an infinite combination of flavors available to chefs out there, but one thing is for sure: sometimes, the only answer is to turn up the heat with some serious spiciness. And while adding that extra kick to your dishes might only feel like you’re enhancing the eating experience—or filling your craving for intense spice—you may actually be doing more benefit to your body than you realize. That’s because a new study has found that eating chili peppers greatly reduces the risk of death from a wide range of ailments, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Here’s why, and for more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
The study, whose preliminary research will be presented by a group of researchers at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions this year, analyzed over 4,729 studies from five leading global health databases to amass the dietary records of more than 570,000 subjects from China, Iran, Italy, and the United States. The findings showed that compared to people who rarely or never ate chili peppers, those who were fans of that sweet, sweet heat saw a 23% relative reduction in cancer-related deaths, a 26% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular events, and a 25% reduction in early deaths overall.
“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 [cardiovascular], and cancer mortality,” Bo Xu, MD, senior study author and cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in Ohio said in a statement. “It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health.”
The reason behind this sizzling bit of health news likely has to do with capsaicin, the antioxidant that gives chilis their heat that previous studies have found to have an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and blood-glucose regulating effect on the body. One study of 22,000 Italian from 2019 found that subjects who ate chili peppers every other day were 23% less likely to die young, cutting the risk of dying by heart attack by 40% and of stroke by 61%, The Daily Mail reports. And other studies have found that increased capsaicin intake helped boost the amount of healthy gut bacteria in lab mice that can help promote weight loss.
Still, the researchers say they are looking to use these findings to conduct more experiments and hopefully pinpoint which peppers—and how often they need to be eaten— are the best for optimizing these recorded health benefits. “More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings,” Xu concluded.
Along with chili peppers, here are 20 Foods You Should Be Eating Every Day for a Longer Life.