Could Eating Red Chili Peppers Increase Your Life Span?

Do you want to live longer? For most people, the answer to this question is probably a resounding “yes,” but, at the same time, many would also be reluctant to make some of the necessary changes that would yield such a result.

Indeed, making significant lifestyle changes is not easy, even in the face of one’s own pending mortality.

But what if that change you make was simply eating more of something? And that “something” doesn’t have to be rice cake?

Extrapolating data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III, which has been collected from more than 16,000 Americans (including up to 23 years of follow-ups), medical student Mustafa Chopan and Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D., suggest that eating more chili peppers might be a way to extend your life.

According to their study, when examining baseline characteristics of the participants according to their hot red chili pepper consumption those who did eat more of them were likely “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats . . . had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” when compared against those who did not eat red chili peppers. Analyzing their median follow-up of 18.9 years and observing mortality rate (and causes of death), they also found that those who regularly consumed chilis tend to live longer than those who did not.

The study authors note, “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.”

Potentially, the authors suggest that capsaicin (the prinicpal component of chilis—the thing that makes them “hot”) play a major role in both cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity. They also may help to regulate coronary blood flow, and they seem to possesses antimicrobial properties which could, at least indirectly, “affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.”
Chopan concludes: “Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper — or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials.”