Chili Pepper Consumption Reduces Risk for Death After Heart Attack or Stroke

Regular consumption of chili peppers, long a staple of the Mediterranean diet, hase been linked with a slight reduction in the risk for cardiovascular mortality, a new study suggests.

“Chili pepper is a usual part of a traditional Mediterranean diet. Yet epidemiological data on the association between chili pepper intake and mortality risk are scarce, with a lack of studies from Mediterranean populations,” the authors explained in the abstract. “This study sought to examine the association between chili pepper consumption and risk of death in a large sample of the adult Italian general population, and to account for biological mediators of the association.”

The longitudinal study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, consisted of more than 22,000 citizens of the Molise region of Italy. Participants had their health status monitored for an average period of about eight years, and the researchers also compared their eating habits. Chili pepper intake was estimated by the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer (EPIC) Food Frequency Questionnaire. Participants intake was categorized as none/rare, up to two times per week, between three and four times per week, and more than four times per week. Median follow-up was 8.2 years.

According to the results, there were 1,236 deaths within the median follow-up period. Regular consumers of chili peppers (more than 4 times per week) had lower multivariable hazard ratios for all-cause (HR=0.77; 95% CI, 0.66 to 0.90) and cardiovascular disease mortality (HR=0.66; 95% CI, 0.50 to 0.86) compared with no/rare intake. The authors also reported that regular intake showed an inverse association with ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular death risk. The association was reported to be stronger in those participants who didn’t have hypertension (P for interaction=0.021), joining vitamin D as the only biomarkers of cardiovascular disease to approach accounting for such associations.

“In a large adult Mediterranean population, regular consumption of chili pepper is associated with a lower risk of total and cardiovascular disease death independent of cardiovascular disease risk factors or adherence to a Mediterranean diet,” the researchers wrote in their study. “Known biomarkers of cardiovascular disease death risk only marginally mediate the association of chili pepper intake with mortality.”