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Hot Discovery: Chili Peppers May Extend Your Life

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Kris-Etherton noted that past studies have shown that capsaicin helps quell growth of cancer cells, which may play a role in reduction of mortality from cancer and all causes.

Chili peppers contain potassium, fiber and vitamins A, B6 and E, she said, noting these can benefit blood pressure. And adding chili pepper might replace some of the salt a person might otherwise add to food. Many people — including Americans and people from Asian cultures — eat a very high-salt diet, Kris-Etherton added.

“Rather than just cut the salt out, people are looking for seasonings and flavorings, and this may be one that has a double benefit, decreasing the sodium and adding some antioxidants and maybe some bioactive components like capsaicin,” she said.

But too much of a good thing can also cause problems. Hot pepper can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a burning feeling in the gastrointestinal tract, she explained.

If you want to add chili pepper to your diet, Kris-Etherton suggests using it as a flavoring.

“People could use them with certain foods. So, let’s just say they want to make something like guacamole, which is fine, but then pair it with healthy foods,” Kris-Etherton said. “Don’t get your chili peppers by eating a lot of avocado with a ton of chips.”

The study didn’t break down the amount and type of chili pepper that might be needed for health benefits. Xu also said it’s too early in the research to give dietary guidelines for eating chili peppers to improve health outcomes.

The researchers are continuing to analyze data and hope to publish the full paper soon. The preliminary findings are scheduled to be presented at a virtual meeting of the American Heart Association Nov. 13 to 17.

More information

Learn more about chili peppers and health from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Bo Xu, MD, cardiologist, Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, professor, nutritional sciences, College of Health and Human Development, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.; American Heart Association, Scientific Sessions news release, Nov. 9, 2020

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