While some of us avoid restaurant meal descriptions including words like cayenne, chili, and habanero, others jump on board. And new research suggests there might be a heart-healthy benefit to eating spicy foods.
A large study recently published in the journal PLOS One looked at the connection between hot red chili pepper consumption and mortality. Researchers from the University of Vermont surveyed a nationally representative sample of 16,179 U.S. adults over the course of 6 years, finding that those who ate hot peppers at least once a month had a 13 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.
The study was just observational, so it couldn’t prove a cause and effect relationship. In other words, there’s not enough evidence to say we should all immediately build a hot sauce habit like Hillary Clinton, who reportedly eats raw jalapeños like some people eat potato chips. But it does build on research that suggests spicy food does the body good.
Below are a few other ways the hot stuff can affect your health:
Spicy food may aid in weight loss.
Capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers so darn spicy, may contribute to the body’s ability to turn white fat into brown fat, according to a 2015 study in mice by researchers at the University of Wyoming. Brown fat is considered “smart fat” in that it helps the body burn calories more efficiently than white fat.
Of course, since the study was conducted in mice, it’s difficult to predict if the same reaction is replicated in humans. Still, the possibility is worth noting.
Men who eat spicy food might have higher testosterone levels.
Capsaicin might help regulate blood sugar level.
Each time you eat foods that are broken down into sugar, including carbohydrates, the level of sugar in the blood fluctuates. But adding chili to your food may help prevent a meal from raising the blood sugar level, according to a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which can be especially helpful for individuals with Type 2 diabetes.
Just some spicy food for thought.