STUFFING yourself with a few chili peppers could significantly lesson the risk of fatal heart attack and stroke, a study says.
Experts carried out the research in Italy, where chilis are a common ingredient, and they compared the risk of death among 23,000 people, CNN reported.
Some of the participants chowed down on chili peppers while others didn’t, and their health and eating habits were monitored for eight years.
It turns out dealing with some heart burn can stave off a heart attack.
Researchers found the risk of dying from a heart attack was a whopping 40 percent lower among chili pepper-enthusiasts, who ate the veges at least four times per week.
Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed) - and the study's lead author - noted a healthy diet was irrelevant when it came to these mortality risks.
“Someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect," she said.
The data comes from the Moli-Sani study which enlisted around 23,000 participants from the Molise region of southern Italy.
The study kicked off in 2005 aiming to learn about environmental and genetic factors underlying cardiovascular disease, cancer and degenerative pathologies.
The study - now based at Neuromed - reportedly recreated an entire Italian region in the large research lab.
THE HUMBLE CHILI
Neuromed's Director of the Department of Epidemiology, Licia Iacoviello, pointed out healing properties and benefits of chili peppers had been passed down for generations in Italy.
He said: "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."
The dedicated team behind the study is planning to investigate the biochemical mechanisms that make the chili such a healthy part of a diet.
And while some praised the Italian study, other European experts pointed out it did have limitations.
Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian at Aston Medical School in the UK, said the study did "not show a causal link” between chili consumption and health benefits.
He said its purported positive effects could be attributed to how the peppers are used in an overall diet.
Mellor said it's plausible that people who eat chilis also are more "likely to be eating more fresh foods including vegetables."
"Any direct effect is likely to be small and it is more likely that it makes eating other healthy foods more pleasurable,” he said.
Ian Johnson of the Quadram Institute Bioscience in Norwich, praised the “high-quality observational," highlighting its “robust methods" to research chili pepper benefits.
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But Johnson maintained no mechanism for a protective effect was actually identified.
“This type of relationship suggests that chilies may be just a marker for some other dietary or lifestyle factor that hasn’t been accounted for," he said."
Johnson added: "But, to be fair, this kind of uncertainty is usually present in epidemiological studies, and the authors do acknowledge this."