In December of 2021, a team of researchers published a systematic review and meta-analysis that examined the relationship between hot chili peppers and mortality.
They collected results from 4729 studies, totaling 570,762 adult participants from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
The researchers found a significant relative risk reduction in mortality for chili pepper consumers compared to people who rarely or never ate them.
Capsaicin and Chronic Illnesses
The health benefits of chili peppers are largely attributed to their high capsaicin content.
Capsaicin is the compound that gives chili peppers their characteristic pungent smell and burning sensation.
Capsaicin shows potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial, and potentially anti-tumorigenic effects and has been linked to reduced risk for conditions such as:
- Diabetic vasculopathy
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Cardiac Hypertrophy
- Fatty Liver
- Gastric Ulceration
This doesn’t mean that your doctor will be prescribing chili peppers to cure your ailments, but it suggests that some extra spiciness in your diet could help promote health and longevity.
How It Works
Capsaicin and hot peppers influence your health in several ways.
One effect is that they stimulate fat-burning processes and decrease appetite, leading to a reduced risk for obesity and obesity-related illnesses (type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, for example).
Capsaicin also helps improve gut health by promoting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, such as H. Pylori, the bacteria linked to gastric ulcers.
Capsaicin may also promote heart health by improving blood flow and endothelial function (your endothelium is the thin lining of your heart and blood vessels).
Also, peppers are full of nutritious fiber, minerals, and vitamins A, B, and C.
Capsaicin for Neuropathic Pain
Another interesting medical use of chili peppers is for managing neuropathic pain.
The burning sensation associated with peppers is not burning your skin or insides the way heat or fire would. It activates certain neural pathways that signal to your brain that you’re in pain.
After a relatively brief period of intense “burning,” capsaicin is applied topically to the skin. It desensitizes and defunctionalizes the area to pain signals. Repeated applications may, in some cases, provide pain relief lasting for several weeks.
This can significantly improve the quality of life for people suffering from neuropathy and chronic pain. This analgesic effect can also provide doctors an opportunity to perform tests that would otherwise be too painful for the patient.
Eat More Peppers
Although peppers are not likely to cure you of illness, including them in your diet can be a tasty way to promote good health and longevity.
Discover new recipes that incorporate whole chili peppers, or you could even sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes on your favorite dishes for a little extra health boost.
If you don’t like extra hot spiciness, you can find less hot varieties of peppers and use them in smaller amounts while still enjoying the delicious benefits they offer.