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Hot Peppers and Reduced Mortality

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Here is a new study [1] (popular account) that reinforces something we've discussed before (e.g. Michael here), namely that frequent hot pepper consumption is associated with reduced all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, by 23% and 34% respectively.  Here are the mortality curves comparing hot pepper consumers (dashed lines) and non-consumers (solid lines):


This was a longitudinal study in a group of Italian individuals. Similar results have been observed in longitudinal studies of Chinese [2] and North American [3] populations.

Unlike many other studies of diet and lifestyle factors associated with longevity where the impact of the intervention is often attenuated when you factor in other healthy behaviors, these studies seemed to find the hot pepper consumption was even more beneficial among those with other markers of good health (e.g. non-hypertensives [1]) and healthy behaviors (e.g. alcohol abstainers [2])

Interestingly, this new study [1] found a dramatic reduction in CVD mortality, but hot pepper consumption was not associated with improvements in the typical  biomarkers of CVD health (like cholesterol level) suggesting the mechanism of chili pepper (capsaicin) benefit is independent of the usual pathways for preventing CVD.

As I've harped on incessantly in the past (e.g. here and here) capsaicin is what might be called a "cold exposure" mimetic, boosting the mass and potentiating the activity of brown and beige adipose tissue (BAT), thereby improving glucose metabolism among other benefits.

It is interesting and encouraging to see this once again associated with longevity benefits.



[1] Journal of the American College of Cardiology
Volume 74, Issue 25, 24 December 2019, Pages 3139-3149

Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality in Italian Adults

Maria Laura Bonaccio et al

Chili pepper is a usual part of a traditional Mediterranean diet. Yet epidemiological data on the association between chili pepper intake and mortality risk are scarce, with a lack of studies from Mediterranean populations.

This study sought to examine the association between chili pepper consumption and risk of death in a large sample of the adult Italian general population, and to account for biological mediators of the association.

Longitudinal analysis was performed on 22,811 men and women enrolled in the Moli-sani Study cohort (2005 to 2010). Chili pepper intake was estimated by the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer) Food Frequency Questionnaire and categorized as none/rare consumption, up to 2 times/week, >2 to ≤4 times/week, and >4 times/week.

Over a median follow-up of 8.2 years, a total of 1,236 deaths were ascertained. Multivariable hazard ratios (HRs) for all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality among participants in the regular (>4 times/week) relative to none/rare intake [of chili peppers] were 0.77 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.66 to 0.90) and 0.66 (95% CI: 0.50 to 0.86), respectively. Regular intake was also inversely associated with ischemic heart disease (HR: 0.56; 95% CI: 0.35 to 0.87) and cerebrovascular (HR: 0.39; 95% CI: 0.20 to 0.75) death risks. The association of chili pepper consumption with total mortality appeared to be stronger in hypertension-free individuals (p for interaction = 0.021). Among known biomarkers of CVD, only serum vitamin D marginally accounted for such associations.

In a large adult Mediterranean population, regular consumption of chili pepper is associated with a lower risk of total and CVD death independent of CVD risk factors or adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Known biomarkers of CVD risk only marginally mediate the association of chili pepper intake with mortality.


[2BMJ. 2015 Aug 4;351:h3942. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h3942.

Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population
based cohort study.

Lv J(1), Qi L(2), Yu C(1), Yang L(3), Guo Y(4), Chen Y(3), Bian Z(4), Sun D(1),
Du J(5), Ge P(6), Tang Z(7), Hou W(8), Li Y(9), Chen J(10), Chen Z(3), Li L(11); 


OBJECTIVE: To examine the associations between the regular consumption of spicy
foods and total and cause specific mortality.
DESIGN: Population based prospective cohort study.
SETTING: China Kadoorie Biobank in which participants from 10 geographically
diverse areas across China were enrolled between 2004 and 2008.
PARTICIPANTS: 199,293 men and 288,082 women aged 30 to 79 years at baseline after
excluding participants with cancer, heart disease, and stroke at baseline.
MAIN EXPOSURE MEASURES: Consumption frequency of spicy foods, self reported once 
at baseline.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Total and cause specific mortality.
RESULTS: During 3,500,004 person years of follow-up between 2004 and 2013 (median
7.2 years), a total of 11,820 men and 8404 women died. Absolute mortality rates
according to spicy food consumption categories were 6.1, 4.4, 4.3, and 5.8 deaths
per 1000 person years for participants who ate spicy foods less than once a week,
1 or 2, 3 to 5, and 6 or 7 days a week, respectively. Spicy food consumption
showed highly consistent inverse associations with total mortality among both men
and women after adjustment for other known or potential risk factors. In the
whole cohort, compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, the 
adjusted hazard ratios for death were 0.90 (95% confidence interval 0.84 to
0.96), 0.86 (0.80 to 0.92), and 0.86 (0.82 to 0.90) for those who ate spicy food 
1 or 2, 3 to 5, and 6 or 7 days a week, respectively
. Compared with those who ate
spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods 6 or 7 days a
week showed a 14% relative risk reduction in total mortality. The inverse
association between spicy food consumption and total mortality was stronger in
those who did not consume alcohol than those who did (P=0.033 for interaction).

Inverse associations were also observed for deaths due to cancer, ischemic heart 
diseases, and respiratory diseases.
CONCLUSION: In this large prospective study, the habitual consumption of spicy
foods was inversely associated with total and certain cause specific mortality,
independent of other risk factors of death.

© Lv et al 2015.

DOI: 10.1136/bmj.h3942 
PMCID: PMC4525189
PMID: 26242395  [Indexed for MEDLINE]



[3]  PLoS One. 2017 Jan 9;12(1):e0169876. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169876.

eCollection 2017.

The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large
Population-Based Cohort Study.

Chopan M(1), Littenberg B(1).

Author information: 
(1)University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont, United States 
of America.

The evidence base for the health effects of spice consumption is insufficient,
with only one large population-based study and no reports from Europe or North
America. Our objective was to analyze the association between consumption of hot 
red chili peppers and mortality, using a population-based prospective cohort from
the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III, a
representative sample of US noninstitutionalized adults, in which participants
were surveyed from 1988 to 1994. The frequency of hot red chili pepper
consumption was measured in 16,179 participants at least 18 years of age. Total
and cause-specific mortality were the main outcome measures. During 273,877
person-years of follow-up (median 18.9 years), a total of 4,946 deaths were
observed. Total mortality for participants who consumed hot red chili peppers was
21.6% compared to 33.6% for those who did not (absolute risk reduction of 12%;
relative risk of 0.64). Adjusted for demographic, lifestyle, and clinical
characteristics, the hazard ratio was 0.87 (P = 0.01; 95% Confidence Interval
0.77, 0.97). Consumption of hot red chili peppers was associated with a 13%
reduction in the instantaneous hazard of death
. Similar, but statistically
nonsignificant trends were seen for deaths from vascular disease, but not from
other causes. In this large population-based prospective study, the consumption
of hot red chili pepper was associated with reduced mortality. Hot red chili
peppers may be a beneficial component of the diet.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169876 
PMCID: PMC5222470
PMID: 28068423  [Indexed for MEDLINE]


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Interesting. I was aware of it, but this does lend more robust support to the benefits of spices.

Since I rarely use salt at home, I consume significant amounts of spices, including paprika, cayenne pepper, jalapeno peppers, etc., to increase palatability.

Luckily, I genuinly like spicy food -- much better than being cold :D

Edited by Ron Put
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