This raises the obvious question that why don’t people from countries like India or Thailand live the longest in this world because spices are so integral to them. Well, longevity depends on far more factors than just spices. Simply put, two people raised in the similar environment, where one of them has more spice in the food would live longer. Now here is the research.
Researchers discovered the connection between spicy food and longevity after studying the results of a survey of 500,000 Chinese people taken from 2004 to 2008. The survey asked people about their dietary habits, including the amount of chili they consumed on a weekly basis. When researchers checked back in with respondents seven years later, those who consumed spicy foods once a week had a 10 percent lesser chance of death. And those who ate spicy foods three to seven times a week had a 14 percent lesser chance of death.
“We know something about the beneficial effects of spicy foods basically from animal studies and very small-sized human studies,” Lu Qi, associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Time. Studies have shown that that capsaicin, the active ingredient in spicy foods, is linked to a lower risk of cancer as well as heart and respiratory diseases. It also has a positive effect on metabolism, weight, and gut bacteria.
Eating chili-rich spicy foods was also linked to a lower risk of death from certain diseases, including cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases, they found. Further analysis revealed that fresh chili had a stronger protective effect against death from those diseases.
More research is needed to make any causal case for the protective effects of chili—this does not prove that the spicy foods were the reason for the health outcomes—but Qi finds this observational research valuable. “It appears that increasing your intake moderately, just to 1-2 or 3-5 times a week, shows very similar protective effect,” he says. “Just increase moderately. That may be enough.”