Can spicy things make you live longer?

There is a saying, that comes from ancient times and has been popularly held for decades. I come from Ecuador and have noticed that the old generation from my country has many beliefs about how certain foods will affect your health. So to start this post I wanted to share a common belief that I think South America and other cultures have in common. The question that I want to answer through this blog is: Do spicy things affect the mortality of a person?

According to a study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, spicy food may have an effect in mortality. They had data from 512,891 participants from diverse areas of China that had answered questionnaires about the types of chili peppers they ate and how many days a week they ate them. This was an observational study since participants were asked how much spicy things they ate during a period of time. They were also asked to give other information such as their measurements and their health status; these way confounding variables were controlled. Even though most were controlled, it would have worked better if participants were randomized and chilli peppers were given to one group and a placebo chilli would be given to another. This way it could have been an experiment that would provide more evidence of how spicy food has an effect on mortality.

All of the individuals in the study aged between 30 and 79 years old. After a seven-year follow up, 20224 people had passed away. Scientists compared the data from these participants depending on their health status and how often they consume spicy food. Here is a table showing the results:




As seen in the data above, when the participants of the study had spicy food several times a week, it lowered their risk of mortality.The null hypothesis has been rejected therefore, the study has an alternative hypothesis since something is going on. Furthermore, scientists separated the data from those who had Cancer, Ischemic heart disease and Diabetes and others who had infections or respiratory diseases. Individuals were categorized through models 1, 2 or 3 depending on their age, sex, education, physical activity, smoking and drinking status. When comparing the data from participants who ate spicy food less than once a week with those who ate it 6 to 7 times a week, scientists noticed a 14% lower risk of death for causes of death (hard endpoint).

Even though, this is a very big study there is the need of replication since there is always a probability of chance. In this case it is very unlikely, but life-changing discoveries need meta analyses in order to prove the hypothesis (in this case: the amount of spicy food consumed changes mortality). Scientists did not find a mechanism that can explain their finding that spicy food lowers the risk of mortality but they do have a reasonable speculation for them to believe it does. Therefore, the conclusion of the study could be a false positive or correct since something is going on.

To conclude, there is the need of meta analyses and replication since the research paper indicated that this is the first published study in which the amount of spicy food eaten and mortality rates are analyzed. Also, data collected is just from one area (China) and is therefore generalizing the discovery. It is similar to the Dutch study of sugary drinks discussed in class. There is not enough evidence to prove that spicy food lowers the risk of death of an individual but this study suggests that something is going on.

Ultimately, the belief that spicy food is healthy for you may be certain, and therefore some people may want to eat more spicy food but it needs to be eaten with moderation. This study does not allow people to make the conclusion that people who eat too much spicy food will live longer. I also found an article from NBC news that mentions the positive effects of spicy food and actually mentions the study I talk about above but also mentions some of the negative effects of eating too much spicy food such as making your blood thinner and provoking hemorrhoids.








1 thought on “Can spicy things make you live longer?

  1. Lauren Eve Ribeiro

    I personally love spicy food and put hot sauce on just about anything. I always knew that spicy things had many benefits but I never knew about this one. One of the benefits of spicy food is it can clear up your sinuses when you are congested. I wonder if there are any other foods out there that can give the same results for the people who may not like spicy foods.

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