The best reason to add a little heat to your diet.

Spicy foods have been used as traditional remedies for improving health for many decades, but there has been little evidence of any long-term health benefits. Until now.

In a study analyzing the diets of over 16,000 healthy Americans, and examining their health (or death) records over 23 years, lovers of spicy food were found to live longer. The chilli eaters had an overall 13 percent reduction in death rate. The major benefit was a lower death rate from vascular disease, which includes all types of heart disease and strokes.

It is not yet clear how chillies work to improve health, but the active spicy chemical (capsaicin) is a known regulator of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which can improve heart function and increase metabolic rate.

Time to cultivate that taste for the hot and spicy!

Professor David Cameron-Smith is a regular Fit Planet contributor. A transplanted Australian living in New Zealand, he obtained a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from Deakin University, and undertook postdoctoral training at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. His research interests include the importance of nutrition in the maintenance of optimal health in an ageing population, and the impact of nutrition in regulating the function of muscles.

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