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expert reaction to chilli consumption and mortality

Research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, reports that consumption of chilli’s reduces risk of death from cardiac and cerebrovascular causes.


Dr Duane Mellor, Registered Dietitian and Senior Teaching Fellow, Aston Medical School, Aston University, said:

“This is an interesting paper exploring potential associations between chilli consumption and risk of heart disease and stroke. It does not show a causal link, and hints that those who were following a more traditional Mediterranean diet seemed to benefit less than those not following this type of diet. This could suggest it is how chilies are used as part of an overall dietary pattern and lifestyle. It is plausible people who use chillies, as the data suggests also used more herbs and spices, and as such likely to be eating more fresh foods including vegetables. So, although chillies can be a tasty addition to our recipes and meals, any direct effect is likely to be small and it is more likely that it makes eating other healthy foods more pleasurable.”


Dr Ian Johnson, Nutrition researcher and Emeritus Fellow, Quadram Institute Bioscience, said:

“This is a high-quality observational study based on a large Mediterranean population.  The data has been collected using robust methods and the volunteers gave blood samples so that an impressive number of biochemical markers were also recorded. The results show that consumption of chili peppers was associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes, and particularly from strokes and heart disease. Unfortunately, no convincing mechanism for the protective effect has been identified, and another major weakness of the study is that no evidence of a dose-response effect could be found.  It is hard to believe that, assuming this is a real effect, any low level of chilli consumption is protective, with no additional benefits conferred by higher doses.  This type of relationship suggests that chillies may be just a marker for some other dietary or lifestyle factor that hasn’t been accounted for but, to be fair, this kind of uncertainty is usually present in epidemiological studies, and the authors do acknowledge this.”


‘Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality in Italian Adults’ by Marialaura Bonaccio et al. was published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology at 19:00 UK time on Monday 16th December. 


Declared interests

Dr Duane Mellor: No declarations of interest

Dr Ian Johnson:  No conflicts to declare.

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