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Spicy Foods Associated with Longer Life

Harvard Health Letter, November 2015—There’s no magic pill you can swallow to make you live longer, but what about food? A study from the Harvard School of Public Health published Aug. 4, 2015, in British Medical Journal found that people who ate spicy foods almost every day had a 14- percent lower risk of death than people who ate spicy foods once a week. Researchers evaluated the health and diet information of almost 500,000 people in China from 2004 to 2008, then followed up with them a few years later. The study was observational, so it didn’t show that spicy foods caused people to live longer, only that people who regularly ate spicy = food—especially food with fresh and dried chili peppers—were less likely to have died during the study period than those who ate spicy food less frequently. “Some evidence from other studies suggests the bioactive ingredients in spicy foods such as capsaicin may lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides and improve inflammation,” says study author Dr. Lu Qi. If you’d like to add more chili pepper to your diet, stick with something healthy, such as turkey chili or lentil pilaf, and skip the greasy tacos. But be careful: spicy foods may trigger an increase in gastric acid in some people, causing heartburn.

FAST FACT!

Did you know there are two definitions for the word calorie. One represents the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water to 1 °Celsius (this is considered a small calorie or calorie with a lower-case c. The other, termed large calorie or Calorie with a capital C represents the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water to 1 °C, which is equal to one thousand small calories. This type of calorie is often used to measure the energy value of foods. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

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