Calling all Sriracha fans: Not only does spicy food taste infinitely better than the bland stuff, but a recent study found that hot peppers could help you live longer. It looks like people who put hot sauce on everything might be on to something after all, so if you're starting from ground zero when it comes to spicy food consumption, it might be time to get one of them to teach you their ways. Before you know it, you'll have joined the ranks of people who carry around a tiny bottle of hot sauce on their key chain and eating your way to living longer than wimps who can't handle spicy food. It's a win-win.
In research published in PLoS One this month, researchers from the University of Vermont analyzed data from the CDC's National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, a program of studies following thousands of Americans for about 20 years. It surveys participants about a bunch of health-related factors, from topics as broad as frequency of exercise to those as specific as what foods people eat. This allowed researchers to build a profile of people who eat lots of chili peppers.
OK, so, ready for the coolest part? When researchers looked at the follow-up surveys conducted later, they found that people who ate chili peppers had a 13 percent reduction in mortality, especially when it came to deaths from heart attacks and strokes. In other words, pepper-eaters were less likely to die over the course of the study.
These results support those from prior research conducted in 2015 in China. Neither study was designed to explain why this association exists, but University of Vermont researchers had a few ideas. It's possible that capsaicin, the substance responsible for that spicy feeling, activates genes that protect against obesity and its related health problems. There's also evidence that capsaicin influences gut bacteria and aids digestion.
But these explanations assume that chili peppers are the reason for reduced mortality, and further research is needed before they can be established as the cause.
It's also worth noting that there was only a reduction in mortality — chili peppers can't grant you immortality. On the other hand, they can make your food extra delicious, so you might as well indulge in your Sriracha addiction anyway.