Spicy Food Compound Helps the Heart in Five Ways

In All Health Watch, Featured Article, Heart and Cardiovascular

Researchers have discovered that a fiery compound may beat back America’s number one killer.

The research comes from Zhen-Yu Chen, a food and nutritional science expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The new study was recently presented at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Now, Chen’s results are making headlines nationwide.

Chen discovered that the spicy compound that gives hot peppers their heat may improve heart health. His results are preliminary. But they come on the heels of other promising research.

“Our research has reinforced and expanded knowledge about how these substances in chilies work in improving heart health,” he says.

The good news here is that the fiery compound works in more ways than one. And it may offer protection against heart disease.

Spice Helps Heart in Five Ways

The compound with the heart health benefits is called capsaicin. It’s part of a group of ingredients called “capsaicinoids.” These components give chili peppers their heat. You can find capsaicin in peppers like cayennes, jalapeños, and habaneros.

To get his results, Chen conducted a study on animals. He used hamsters with high-cholesterol diets. He divided them into a control group and four different capsaicinoid groups. Each of the capsaicinoid groups and took a different amount of the fiery compound: 0.010%, 0.015%, 0.020%, and 0.030% capsaicinoids.

“We concluded that capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving a range of factors related to heart and blood vessel health,” says Chen.

To be exact, Chen found five heart health benefits.

He found capsaicin reduced levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Capsaicin also lowered total cholesterol levels. The spicy compound also helped break down cholesterol so the body could turn it into waste.

The spicy compound also blocked a gene that makes arteries contract. The blockage allows more blood to flow through the blood vessels.

Capsaicin’s fourth benefit was to cut the size of deposits that were already formed in blood vessels. These deposits can narrow arteries, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Finally, capsaicin blocks a gene that produces cyclooxygenase-2, a substance that affects the muscles around blood vessels and prohibits blood flow.

Spice Up Your Diet

Chen notes that other research has shown chilies can lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. But he doesn’t recommend eating chilies in excess.

“A good diet is a matter of balance,” says Chen.

Adding some spice to your diet can offer other benefits. We’ve reported in the past how eating chili peppers can help with weight loss.

If you can tolerate them, you should start to add hot peppers into your meals on a weekly basis. The benefits are too good to ignore.

To your best health,

Michael Jelinek,
Managing Editor, NHD “Health Watch”