Do you love the fire-breathing effect of five-alarm chili? You might be in luck: People who eat spicy peppers may live longer, according to new research from the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine.
The study, published in PLOS ONE, drew on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, which followed more than 16,000 participants for an average of 19 years. After controlling for demographic and lifestyle factors, researchers found that regular chili-pepper eaters were 13 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who avoided peppers.
Capsaicin could be the key. This spicy compound is known to reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, and improve circulation. Researchers also note that capsaicin is antimicrobial, which “may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota,” thereby reducing the risk for metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Though the results do not prove causation, they “may fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says study coauthor Mustafa Chopan.
In the meantime, consider adding a few more chili peppers to your meals.