Spicy food is it good for health?

In different regions and cultures of the world, spicy food is a distinctive feature.

There are also those who prefer to add peppers or chilies to their dishes to give them a characteristic hotness. Beyond tastes or customs, the big question is: how good is spicy food for health?

Pungency or itching (often confused with a taste) is a burning sensation caused by certain compounds that activate the sensation of acidity and heat in the ion channel on the nociceptors (pain receptors). One of the best known, and perhaps the most studied, sources of heat is capsaicin, the active compound in hot peppers.

Capsaicin is an oily substance that binds to pain receptors on the tongue and throughout the digestive tract. It is responsible for the brain feeling that it is “on fire” when it bites into a chili, although this substance does not really burn.

What happens is that it “tricks” the brain into identifying a change in temperature, which results in the sensation of heat and pain. This causes the brain to send signals to the rest of the body to cool down and eliminate capsaicin-induced symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, and even drooling.

The truth is that capsaicin detaches itself from pain receptors in the mouth after about 20 minutes, but then a whole host of new symptoms occur as it begins to move through the digestive system, including burning in the chest, swollen throat, diarrhea , nausea, and even vomiting.

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Despite all these immediate annoyances, many researchers argue that eating spicy food may be beneficial in the long term for a variety of reasons.

For example, a paper published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that regular consumption of red hot peppers was associated with a 13% reduction in mortality, specifically from heart disease or stroke.

Another study found that capsaicin may hinder lung cancer metastasis. This is the process by which cancer cells spread throughout the body.

  • Why you should add pepper to your meals

There is evidence that frequent consumption of spicy food may be good for cardiovascular health, thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin. Additionally, it is often touted as a great option for weight loss or management, as capsaicin increases the rate at which energy is used and burns fat stores.

It’s also common that capsaicin is often the main ingredient in many ointments, gels, therapeutic patches, and pain relievers used to treat many conditions, from arthritis to fibromyalgia to headaches.

Even a study published in high blood pressure found after analyzing the taste and health preferences of more than 600 people, that those who liked spicy foods tended to consume up to half a tablespoon less salt per day, compared to people who did not consume spicy food.

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A low or moderate consumption of salt helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart failure and heart attacks, kidney damage and even the development of different types of cancer, such as gastric or colorectal.

Although most of the benefits associated with spicy food come from capsaicin, remember that there are also other compounds linked to itching that can bring different benefits, such as piperine (found in pepper), gingerol (found in ginger) and allicin (found in raw garlic and onions).


It’s important to note that while capsaicin has many health benefits, it’s not good for everyone. Some people, such as those with gastritis, may experience pain, frequent belching, nausea, and even abdominal bleeding from constant exposure to this substance.

Excessive intake of spicy food can also increase the risk of other ailments, such as diarrhea or acid reflux. Some of the products that are used therapeutically, such as capsaicin patches for pain relief, also have side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.

There are even investigations, such as the one published in Nutrientswhich found after analyzing more than 4,500 participants over 55 years of age, that the constant and excessive consumption of spicy foods can affect cognitive function, increasing the risk of dementia.

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Experts also warn about cases in which the consumption of spicy food is abused of its own free will, as is the case with viral challenges on the Internet that propose to eat, for example, Carolina Reapers, recognized as the hottest peppers in the world according to Guinness World Records. These can cause significant headaches and neck pain when consumed in excess, and even hospitalizations.

Another aspect to consider is that of capsaicin supplements (which offer a higher concentration of the substance than can normally be found in food).

Although many studies agree that safe doses of daily capsaicin range from 2 to 6 mg, experts advise caution. This is because supplements are not subject to the same regulations that medications are, so dosages are not standardized.

The best thing to do before using this type of product is to consult a health professional, and only consume them under their recommendation and supervision.

Sources consulted: US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Hypertension, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Nutrients.

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