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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard Finds Frequent Spicy Food Consumption Linked with Lower Risk of Death

People who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14 percent lower risk of death compared with those who consume spicy foods less than once a week, according to a new study. Regular spicy food eaters are also less likely to die from cancer, heart, and respiratory diseases than those who eat spicy foods infrequently.

“The findings are highly novel,” said Dr. Lu Qi, associate professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the study’s co-lead author. “To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first reporting a link between spicy food intake and mortality.”

The study appeared online August 4 in BMJ.

The researchers looked at health and dietary data gathered from 487,375 people, ages 30-79, who were enrolled between 2004-2008 in the China Kadoorie Burbank. Participants with a history of cancer, heart disease, and stroke were excluded from the study. During a median follow-up of 7.2 years, there were 11,820 deaths among men and 8,404 deaths among women.

The results showed that regular consumption of spicy food was linked to lowered mortality among both men and women after adjustment for other known or potential risk factors. The researchers found that the association was stronger in people who did not drink alcohol than in those who drank.

Fresh and dried chili peppers were the most commonly used spices reported by the Chinese study population. Capsaicin and other bioactive ingredients in chili peppers have been found in previous studies to have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and anticancer properties, but the authors caution that more research is needed to determine if there is a direct link between these ingredients and lowered risk of death. Read more