Researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont recently discovered through a large prospective study that the consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in total mortality primarily in deaths due to stroke or heart disease.
The study – published in PLos ONE – examined the baseline characteristics of the participants – more than 16,000 Americans that were followed for up to 23 years – and their hot red chili pepper consumption. They discovered that these consumers tended to be younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and that they smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, consume more vegetables and meats, had lower income, less education and lower HDL-cholesterol in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. They then examined data from a median follow- up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed specific causes of death.
The explanation for the health benefits of red chili peppers? Capsaicin is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, and also possesses antimicrobial properties that may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.
“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin – the principal component in chili peppers – may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors. “Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper – or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says Chopan.
Brazilian Peppertree Berries
In another study, the journal Scientific Reports published the finding that red berries of the Brazilian peppertree – common in Florida – contain an extract with the power to disarm dangerous antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria.
The research from Emory University states that a refined, flavone-rich composition extracted from the berries inhibits formation of skin lesions in mice infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus auereus (MRSA). The compound works not by killing the MRSA bacteria, but by repressing a gene that allows the bacteria cells to communicate with one another. Blocking that communication prevents the cells from taking collective action, a mechanism known as quorum quenching.
“It essentially disarms the MRSA bacteria, preventing it from excreting the toxins it uses as weapons to damage tissues,” said Cassandra Quave, an assistant professor in Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health and in the School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology. “The body’s normal immune system then stands a better chance of healing a wound.”
The discovery may hold potential for new ways to treat and prevent antibiotic-resistant infections,