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Spicy Foods Can Extend Your Lifespan

by Sandy Todd Webster on Dec 12, 2015

Food for Thought

Bring on the daily dose of wasabi, ghost peppers or hot chilies. Spicy foods can not only add life to your years; they can add years to your life, says a 2015 study.

Researchers in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also in Boston, published findings in the British Medical Journal (2015; 351:h3942) demonstrating that people who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14% chance of living longer than those who consume spicy foods less than once a week. Regular spicy-food eaters are also less likely to die from cancer or heart and respiratory diseases than those who eat spicy foods infrequently.

The researchers looked at health and dietary data gathered from 487,375 people, aged 30–79, who were enrolled between 2004 and 2008 in the China Kadoorie Biobank. Biobank participants with a history of cancer, heart disease or 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.

Results showed that men and women who regularly ate spicy food were less likely to have died during the study period than those who ate spicy food less frequently. They were also less likely to have died from certain diseases, including cancer and heart and respiratory diseases. The association was observed after adjustments for other known or potential risk factors, and it was stronger in people who did not drink alcohol than in those who did.

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 cautioned that more research is needed to determine if there is a direct link between these ingredients and a lower risk of death.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.