Consuming Chilies Reduces Death From Heart Attack, Stroke and All Causes, Study Shows
Could chili peppers have life-saving properties? A recent study suggests they might.
Researchers looked at the diets of nearly 23,000 adults living in the Molise region of Southern Italy over an eight year period. They found that those who ate chili peppers regularly, defined as four or more times a week, were 40 percent less likely to die from a heart attack and more than 50 percent less likely to die from a stroke, CNN reported.
The protective effect of the chili peppers extended beyond cardiovascular disease. The study found that the regular chili eaters were 23 percent less likely to die for any reason, Newsweek reported.
"The strength of the association between chili pepper and cardiovascular mortality risk is quite strong, but also the risk reduction toward total death risk is actually surprising," study authors Marialaura Bonaccio of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, Dr. Giovanni de Gaetano of Italy's I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed and Dr. Licia Iacoviello of the University of Insubria, Italy, told Newsweek in a statement.
The research, published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, focused on Italy because chili peppers are a common part of the traditional Mediterranean diet, a diet dominated by fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds that relies on olive oil as its primary fat source, Newsweek explained.
Observing practitioners of this diet could therefore help scientists study the reported link between capsaicin, the ingredient that gives chilies their spice, and good health. It was also a way to verify Italian food traditions that touted the benefits of peppers, Iacoviello told CNN.
"And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health," Iacoviello said.
Interestingly, the researchers found that participants who ate chilies were less likely to die even if they did not follow the rest of the Mediterranean diet, which is generally considered healthy.
"[S]omeone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect," Bonaccio told CNN.
That might make you want to go out and buy some chilies, but the study authors cautioned against that line of thinking.
"Diets should not be treated as drugs," the authors told Newsweek. "We should not talk in terms of amounts per day, as if we were dealing with drugs, rather our effort should be addressed to promote a global healthy lifestyle, starting from diet."
They said that those who already eat chili peppers regularly should of course continue to do so, but anyone who does not like peppers should simply follow a healthy diet overall.
Because it was an observational study, the research also cannot prove that chilies were in fact responsible for the lower mortality risk.
"This type of relationship suggests that chillies may be just a marker for some other dietary or lifestyle factor that hasn't been accounted for but, to be fair, this kind of uncertainty is usually present in epidemiological studies, and the authors do acknowledge this," Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience in England who was not involved in the study, told CNN.
Duane Mellor, a dietitian at the UK's Aston Medical School who was also not involved in the study, said it was possible people who ate chilies were more likely to add herbs and spices to their cooking, and therefore more likely to eat healthy foods like vegetables generally.
The researchers now plan to investigate whether there are any biological reasons why chilies might be good for your health.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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