Want to live longer? Spice it up!

Every time you tuck into a spicy curry, mouth numbing papaya salad or heart-warming salsa, you’re doing yourself a service.

Researchers today announce that spicy food is associated with a 14 per cent lower risk of death from cancer, stroke, heart and respiratory diseases.

Pass the hot sauce!

An international team led by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences examined the association between consumption of spicy foods as part of a daily diet and the total risk and causes of death.

They undertook a prospective study of 487,375 participants, aged 30 to 79 years, from the China Kadoorie Biobank over eight years. All participants completed a questionnaire about their general health, physical measurements, and consumption of spicy foods, and red meat, vegetable and alcohol.

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People with a history of cancer, heart disease, and stroke were excluded from the study, and factors such as age, marital status, level of education, and physical activity were accounted for.

Compared with participants who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods one or two days a week were at a 10 per cent reduced risk of death

Those who ate spicy foods between three and seven days a week had a relative 14 per cent lower risk of death compared to those who consumed spicy foods less than once a week.

The association was similar in both men and women, and was stronger in those who did not consume alcohol.

Fresh and dried chilli peppers were the most commonly used spices in those who reported eating spicy foods weekly, and further analysis showed those who consumed fresh chilli tended to have a lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and diabetes.

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This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but the authors call for more research that may “lead to updated dietary recommendations and development of functional foods.”

Previous research has suggested that beneficial effects of spices and their bioactive ingredient, capsaicin, include anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and anticancer properties.

Do you like spicy food? How frequently do you eat it? And will this study see you reaching for the chilli more often?