Chili Peppers: 6 Surprising Health Benefits of This Hot Food Favorite

Chili peppers are one of the most popular ingredients that add flavor to countless recipes. They are hot, spicy and add a certain zest. And did you know that they are actually fruits? For all the culinary reasons we love chili peppers, it turns out there are even more reasons to include them in our meals. It turns out that chili pepper is very useful for health.

In recent years, StudyFinds has published several studies that show that eating chili peppers does a lot more than leave you with a satisfied appetite. Among its many benefits, this popular food helps fight cancer and may extend life.

That should be enough to send anyone to their grocery store. That said, here’s an overview of six amazing health benefits that chili peppers offer:

The composition of chili peppers can help defeat aggressive lung cancer

Many people might not know this if it weren’t for the composition capsaicin, chili peppers will taste like any other soft vegetable. Indeed, capsaicin is responsible for the signature spiciness of chili peppers. Now, a study reports that capsaicin may also be beneficial for lung cancer patients.

Researchers report that a non-pungent synthetic analogue of capsaicin affected lung cancer cells in a way that made them more sensitive to treatment. This is especially important because small cell lung cancer is a particularly aggressive type of cancer with a low survival rate.

Capsaicin has been shown to be effective in fighting cancer in the past, but all of its pungency can cause nausea, stomach pain, and a burning sensation in some people. However, these side effects will not be a problem. The researchers used a synthetic analogue of capsaicin (arvanil), which does not cause digestive side effects, instead of real capsaicin.

The authors of the study observed no growth inhibitory activity and no effect of arvanil on two lung cancer cell lines resistant to cisplatin. However, when the scientists added another ingredient called irinotecan (SN38) to the mix, the two substances together “significantly enhanced” the slowing down of cancer cell activity. Even better, irinotecan and arvanil seem to work together “synergistically.”

READ MORE: Capsaicin to the Rescue: Chili Pepper Blend May Help Beat Aggressive Lung Cancer

The key to a long life?

Previous studies have shown that spicy food can have a positive effect on your health. Now, a study published by the American Heart Association has a “hot” take on the subject. Researchers say that eating chili peppers is not only good for your health, but it can help you live longer by reducing heart disease and cancer.

A study shows that consumption of chili peppers reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 26 percent. The chances of dying from cancer decreased by 23 percent compared to people who did not include peppers in their diet.

One of the key findings is that chili peppers act as a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor agent and blood glucose regulator. This is due to the release of capsaicin into the body of the eater. This substance gives the pepper a signature taste from mild to intensely spicy.

“We were surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili peppers was associated with an overall reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. This highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health,” said senior study author Bo Xu of the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “The exact causes and mechanisms that may explain our findings are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to say unequivocally that eating more chili peppers can prolong life and reduce mortality, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer. More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled trials, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”

READ MORE: Eating chili peppers may help you live longer, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer

Slows down the development of lung cancer

Spicy food is not for everyone. Some people like a little danger when dining, while others prefer to play it safe and avoid fiery ingredients like chili. However, a new study suggests that chili peppers may have a much more important benefit than making dinner taste better: the ability to fight lung cancer.

A study conducted by Marshall University found that the natural compound responsible for the characteristic hot taste of chili peppers, capsaicin, may also prevent the spread of lung cancer.

The researchers conducted experiments with three groups of laboratory-grown human cells and lung cancer cells. Capsaicin effectively prevented the “invasion” of cancer cells into other cells. In addition, mice with metastatic cancer that consumed capsaicin showed fewer metastatic cancer cells in their lungs compared to mice with cancer that did not eat capsaicin.

The study authors say that capsaicin prevents lung cancer metastasis by inhibiting Src, a protein involved in several cellular processes, including proliferation and independent movement.

READ MORE: Some like it hot: Chili peppers may slow lung cancer, study finds

Chili pepper helps relax stomach pains

If Pepto Bismol or Tums aren’t up to the task when your stomach is rumbling, you may need some obscure food. Researchers say that both chili peppers and marijuana interact with the same receptors in the stomach to soothe an irritable bowel.

A study conducted at the University of Connecticut involved a research team feeding mice capsaicin—the very thing that creates the sharp, burning sensation we associate with chili peppers. They found that the chemical binds to TRPV1, a specific receptor on cells in the gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, anandamide is produced, a compound chemically similar to the cannabinoids found in marijuana.

Anandamide causes the immune system to calm down the intestines, including the esophagus, stomach, and pancreas. The chemical also binds to another receptor to recruit immune cells that fight inflammation.

Mice fed capsaicin showed less intestinal inflammation and were even cured of type 1 diabetes.

READ MORE: Study: Chili Peppers and Marijuana Help Relax an Upset Stomach

The secret ingredient to fight all forms of cancer

Capsaicin, the substance that gives chili peppers their hot and spicy taste, may also prevent many forms of cancer, researchers at Marshall University say.

However, the biggest hurdle scientists have to overcome is finding the best way to deliver capsaicin to patients. The researchers say their report is the first to look at sustained-release formulations of capsaicin as an anticancer drug. These delivery methods include solid dispersion systems, liposomes, phospholipid complexes, and nanoparticles.

The team reports that capsaicin has demonstrated the ability to significantly inhibit the growth of a wide range of human cancers. As mentioned earlier, their research showed that a compound in chili peppers could serve as a key weapon in the fight against lung cancer. However, the team also found that patients taking capsaicin in more traditional ways (such as pills) have a number of factors working against it. In addition to its poor absorption in the human body, a capsaicin pill is literally too hot for some patients.

READ MORE: Chili peppers may be the secret ingredient to fight all forms of cancer

Helps curb cravings for salt

Trying to cut back on sodium? Research shows that eating spicy food can increase a person’s sensitivity to salt, thereby curbing cravings for foods high in sodium.

Researchers from the Third Military Medical University in China conducted an experiment with 606 Chinese adults, asking whether they preferred their food salty or spicy. Later, participants’ blood pressure levels were measured and their taste preferences were then assessed. It was found that participants who indicated a strong liking for spicy food not only consumed less salt than those who liked it the least, but their systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were significantly lower.

Previous studies have found that capsaicin, the chemical that gives spicy foods their smell, increased the salty smell of food, but this study went further, strengthening the link between the spiciness of food and the tendency to reduce salt intake.

READ MORE: Study: Eating spicy food helps curb salt cravings

As always, consult a health care professional before adding chili peppers to your diet or making any significant changes to your daily lifestyle.

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