Chili pepper linked to a reduction of death risk for cardiac and cerebral attack

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People who consume chili pepper on a regular basis have mortality risk for every cause reduced by 23 percent compared to those who do not, according to new research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study, conducted by the by the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS) Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, examined 22,811 citizens of the Molise region participating in the Moli-sani study.

Researchers followed study participants for an average period of about eight years. When comparing their eating habits, researchers observed that for people regularly consuming chili pepper four times a week or more, the risk of dying of a heart attack was cut down by 40 percent. Risk reduction for cerebrovascular mortality was reduced by over 50 percent.

“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed,” said Marialaura Bonaccio, MA, first author of the study and Neuromed epidemiologist. “In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect.”

The Moli-sani study is the first to explore the properties of chili pepper in relation to the risk of death in a European and Mediterranean population. Future research will focus on the biochemical mechanisms by which chili pepper, and other related plants containing capsaicin, act.

“Over the centuries, beneficial properties of all kinds have been associated with [chili pepper] consumption, mostly on the basis of anecdotes or traditions, if not magic,” said Licia Iacoviello, MD, PhD, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the IRCCS. “It is important now that research deals with it in a serious way, providing rigor and scientific evidence. And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health.”