A list of conditions for which spicy foods may be beneficial:
Alzheimer’s Disease: A study published on November 1, 2006 in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that seniors who consumed curry often or very often were 49% less likely to have cognitive impairment compared to those who never or rarely consumed curry. Meanwhile, a review published in December 2004 by the Annals of the New York Academy of Science reported that curcumin was effective in “lowering oxidative damage, cognitive deficits, synaptic marker loss, and amyloid deposition,” all of which can prevent Alzheimer’s or halt its progression.
Alzheimer’s leads to the growth of harmful plaques in the brain, and curcumin may be able to slow this process. A paper published in the September 2006 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that macrophages from Alzheimer’s patients became better at digesting plaque-forming proteins after being exposed to curcumin.
Arthritis: Turmeric extract greatly reduces joint inflammation and bone destruction in arthritic mice. (Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis, Arthritis & Rheumatism November 2006)
Cancer: Many studies have shown that regular consumption of chilies and curry decrease the risk of cancer, and researchers are beginning to understand why. The compound, capsaicin, also kills cancer cells by attacking their energy-producing mitochondria without damaging healthy cells. (A curry a day keeps the doctor away?, University of Nottingham, January 9, 2007)
Curcumin also has anti-cancer effects. One study, published on March 1, 2007 in Cancer Research, showed that curcumin decreased the expression of the cancer-promoting MDM2 gene. Another study, published on August 30, 2007 in Cell Cycle, showed that curcumin killed cancer cells using a pathway that spared healthy cells.
Heart Health: Hot peppers may help to improve heart health by boosting the body’s ability to dissolve blood clots. The capsaicin in peppers also fights inflammation, which has been identified as a risk factor for heart disease. Eating chili peppers may also improve circulation and lower blood pressure. (A hot pepper pop quiz, USA WEEKEND, January 7, 2001)
Respiratory Conditions: Hot peppers act as an expectorant, and can help people with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, and other respiratory conditions breathe easier. (A hot pepper pop quiz, USA WEEKEND, January 7, 2001)
Cold and Flu: Eating hot peppers promotes sweating and eases the discomfort of cold and flu symptoms. Hot peppers also help to open up clogged nasal passages. (A hot pepper pop quiz, USA WEEKEND, January 7, 2001)
Mood: According to an article on MedicineNet.com, eating chili peppers boosts the production of endorphins, “natural opiates” that dull pain and promote a sense of wellbeing.
Pain Relief: When applied to the skin, capsaicin decreases levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter that signals pain. An article on capsaicin on WebMD.com says that capsaicin cream offers pain relief for many conditions including arthritis, nervous system problems such as shingles, skin conditions like psoriasis, pain caused by surgery, and mouth sores caused by chemotherapy or radiation.
Weight Control: Hot peppers can speed up metabolism and help the body burn calories faster. Furthermore, research published in the August 1999 issue of the British Journal of Nutritiondiscovered that capsaicin speeds up the death of immature fat cells (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, March 7, 2007). demonstrated that red pepper (capsaicin) suppressed appetite and led people to reduce their fat, protein, and caloric intake. Capsaicin may also prevent obesity by reducing the number of fat cells in the body, since it has been