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Spicy food can reduce heart attack and stroke risk

Wednesday 1st November 2017
People who eat more spice instead of salt may be less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, according to new research. Image: YelenaYemchuk via iStock
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Eating more spicy food can help to reduce a person's risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to a new study.

Research carried out in China by scientists from the University of Chongqing found that cutting down the level of salt in a meal and replacing it with extra spice so that flavour is not lost can potentially help to lower heart attack and stroke risk significantly.

The authors of the study - which has been published in the medical journal Hypertension - enrolled 606 adult participants in their investigation, asking them whether they preferred salty or spicy foods and testing their blood pressure to assess the impact of their diet on their health.

It was found that people who ate the highest levels of spice in their diet had dramatically lower blood pressure levels than their salt-loving counterparts and in general consumed less salt overall, as the taste of their food came from spices instead.

What's more, it was found that the part of the brain stimulated by salt consumption responded in the same way to additional spice, which indicates that it could be tricked over time into surviving with significantly less salt.

This discovery therefore suggests that people who eat spicier food could be successfully lowering their risk of a heart attack or stroke, as consuming less salt is reducing their blood pressure, keeping them healthier as a result.

At the same time, adding extra spice to their meals means they are not having to compromise on taste and flavour.

Senior study author Zhiming Zhu explained: "Previously, a pilot study found that trace amounts of capsaicin, the chemical that gives chilli peppers their pungent smell, enhanced the perception of food being salty. We wanted to test whether this effect would also reduce salt consumption.

"Habit and preference matter when it comes to spicy food, but even a small, gradual increase in spices in your food may have a health benefit."

Written by Martin Lambert

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