Chili pepper is a popular ingredient in cuisines around the world, favored throughout the Mediterranean and particularly in Italy. Over many centuries Italians—and those who have come to love Italian food—have enjoyed its spicy aroma and flavor; but it has also been long praised for having therapeutic properties.
This week, an Italian study has concluded that chili pepper does, indeed, offer some excellent health benefits. Most notably, it can reduce all mortality risk by as much as 23 percent (compared with those who do not consume it).
Lead study author Marialaura Bonaccio comments, “An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed.”
The Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed) epidemiologist adds, “In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthy, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect.”
The study in question examined 22,811 people living in the Molise region of Italy who participated in the Moli-sani study. This research followed the health status of each person for, on average, eight years and compared this against their eating habits. Neuromed researchers found that those who regularly ate chili pepper (noted as at least four times a week, or more) could see their heart attack risk reduced by as much as 40 percent. More importantly, overall cerebrovascular mortality risk fell by more than 50 percent.
This is the first study to explore the therapeutic properties of chili pepper in relation to mortality risk among the European and Mediterranean population. Licia Iacoviello is the director of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at Neuromed. She comments that chili pepper is a fundamental component of Italian food culture. Of course, it is also popular in other parts of the world.
She attests, “Over the centuries, beneficial properties of all kinds have been associated with its consumption, mostly on the basis of anecdotes of traditions, if not magic. It is important now that research deals with it in a serious way, providing rigor and scientific evidence. 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 toward health.”