Study Finds Hot Red Chili Peppers Have Surprising Effect on Life Span

“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” the authors write.

Capsaicin is the component that makes spicy foods spicy. Too much of it is actually dangerous — it is the active ingredient in pepper spray.

But at levels typically consumed for pleasure (and pain), it appears to have beneficial effects. The authors note that it may affect our body at the cellular level, helping to reduce obesity and ease blood flow; it also may also positively alter the bacteria that live in human intestines.

Though the data on the causes of death of the people in the sample were sparse, preliminary indications suggest that reductions in death from cardiovascular conditions — heart disease or stroke — may have been the driving factor in the association.

Prior findings have suggested that capsaicin may have a role in fighting cancer, as well.

“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili peppers, or even spicy food consumption, may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” said Chopan.