Today, let’s talk about one surprisingly simple dietary change that could add years to your life: Eat more chili peppers.
That’s right—a new meta-analysis showed that eating more of any type of chili pepper is linked with lower rates of heart disease death, cancer death, or death by any cause.
And I have to say, the results themselves were pretty impressive. So, let’s take a closer look…
Cut death risk by 25 percent
These researchers looked at four different studies, featuring more than 570,000 participants. And data showed that, compared to people who rarely or never ate chili peppers, people who ate them four or more times weekly had a:
- 26 percent lower risk of heart disease death;
- 23 percent lower risk of cancer death; and
- 25 percent lower risk of death from any cause.
Of course, as you might expect, these results came with all the requisite hand-wringing over how “this isn’t a randomized control trial” or “we don’t know exactly what specific type of chili pepper to eat or how much or how frequently.”
And while those details would be great to have, honestly, does it really matter? We’re talking about chili peppers here, folks.
If a pharmaceutical medication performed with those preliminary numbers, doctors would be using it off-label yesterday. But since it’s a food—and no one stands to make loads of money off of it—I guess the “experts” can’t be bothered to recommend it.
But, once again, that’s where I come in. I can recommend it—and I will.
After all, I’ve been recommending chili peppers in my practice—and using them in my own kitchen—for many years. And there’s plenty of scientific and cultural data to support it.
Animal studies and smaller studies in humans have shown that the active ingredient in chili peppers—called capsaicin—has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cancer-fighting, and blood regulation effects.
In fact, I was speaking with a patient just the other day about how we used to use a form of cayenne pepper to treat atrial fibrillation when I was working with Dr. Atkins—and it worked remarkably! (You might also recognize capsaicin as a popular ingredient in topical pain creams.)
Spice up your cooking
Common hot pepper preparation methods—like chopping, blending, and cooking—increase capsaicin’s bioavailability. So when you think about it, hot sauce is probably the most perfect capsaicin delivery system there is. (You can’t go wrong with a generous dash of cayenne pepper, either.)
You’ll get even more bang for your buck if you add hot sauce to a recipe with some fat. That’s because capsaicin is fat-soluble. So the more it has to “grab on to,” so to speak, the more of the good stuff your body’s going to absorb. Which is excellent news for anyone who likes their guacamole or cheese omelets with a little extra kick!
But to be clear, I’m not suggesting you can eat whatever you want as long as you sprinkle chili peppers on it. Good nutrition doesn’t work that way, and you can’t make up for a bad diet by consuming more of a single food or supplement.
Even reports from the American Heart Association (AHA) show just how dire the situation is in this country—suggesting that, out of seven heart health measures, dietary habits played a bigger role than smoking, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar.
So while their data might be skewed—you know the AHA and I have different ideas as to what constitutes a “heart–healthy” diet—the bottom line is that very few Americans are following a healthy diet of any kind.
And that is one of the main reasons I launched my new show, Cooking with Dr. Fred. So if you haven’t yet, I urge you to check it out on Instagram TV or on my YouTube channel. In the meantime, you can order yourself a copy of my A-List Diet book to get all of the nutrition advice you may need at any point of your long, healthy life—along with dozens of delicious, healthy recipes!
“Chili Pepper Consumption Linked to Better Midlife Survival.” Medscape Medical News, 11/23/2020. (medscape.com/viewarticle/941463)