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This Food May Help Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease, Study Finds

Hint: It can spice up just about any meal.
FACT CHECKED BY Checkmark Cheyenne Buckingham
spicy food

Fans of spicy food, there's reason to rejoice.

A new review and meta-analysis published in Nature looked at the numerous health benefits of Capsicuum annuum, the species of peppers that includes sweet and hot peppers, including bell peppers and chili peppers. Peppers are already known for their properties that encourage weight loss, but this new paper suggests that they may even reduce your risk of heart disease and other health conditions.

Peppers are rich in a compound called capsaicin, which is responsible for their spicy, pungent taste. The paper's authors point out that capsaicin is known for its anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, and weight-reducing effects. What's more, recently, a new compound in peppers was discovered called capsinoid. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now).

In addition to confirming that Capsicum annuum has a small effect on body weight, the meta-analysis also found a study that associated frequent consumption of spicy foods, like chili peppers, with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Studies in the review indicated that red chili peppers were able to reduce cholesterol levels, which, coupled with the well-demonstrated antioxidant effects of peppers, suggests that eating peppers could reduce your risk of CVD. According to the World Health Organization, most cases of CVD can be prevented by lowering your cholesterol, and as the review's authors point out, consuming antioxidants also reduces your risk of the disease.

The meta-analysis also found that eating peppers could help improve the way your body metabolizes sugar by decreasing inflammation. However, the authors noted that there's a need for more clinical trials on humans to confirm this potential benefit.

We still have a lot to learn about peppers and the effects they have on our bodies, as the authors point out in this latest review of the research. They did find that there were no serious adverse effects of eating peppers in the studies they reviewed, which means that it can't hurt to incorporate a little spice into your diet.

And judging by this new research, it certainly seems possible that the short-term rush of biting into a hot pepper could be doing wonders for your long-term health.

For more, be sure to check out 12 Best Foods to Eat When You're Feeling Anxious, According to Science.

Urvija Banerji
Urvija Banerji has written about food for publications like Atlas Obscura, Eater, and The Swaddle. Read more