Who knew Italians ate chili peppers? Not me. My idea of Italian spice is the red pepper flakes I put on my pizza. But there are those down south of Italy way that consume 4 or more peppers a day. This study published in the American Journal of Cardiology documents what happens to about 22,000 Italians, their chili consumption, and their risk of heart attack and stroke.
It turns out that if those that consumed more peppers were about 35% less likely to have a heart attack and 44% less likely to have a stroke. Alarm bells please! These are relative risks. I did not see published in the study the absolute risks for these events in the 1239 people that did die during the 8 year study course. So 35-44% less risk may absolutely mean just a 1-2% difference overall.
No need to throw the baby out with the bath water. It does lend some good information. Other studies also so limited by being epidemiological studies have shown similar results—that chili peppers improve all cause mortality. This might not be enough to make the faint of heart or faint of tastebuds incorporate chili peppers, but at least it allows those of us who have to have it hot in order to taste it at all to feel comfortable that we are doing ourselves no harm and maybe even some good.
There are more proven ways to reduce heart attack and stroke. Don’t smoke! Exercise 150 mn/week. Control your blood pressure. Prevent diabetes. And while your at it, eat a chili pepper.