Does Eating Spicy Food Lead to Longer Life?

The spice of life is spice.

Like it hot? Your taste for spicy food might actually help you live longer.

As if we needed another reason to double up on the Cholula, a team of Chinese researchers just published work in the BMJ showing that people who eat spicy food have a reduced risk of dying.

Scientists long ago linked spicy food to decreased cancer risk and lower obesity rates, but this study is the first to look at its effect on straight-up mortality.

The researchers used questionnaire data from a large Chinese study in which participants reported their health status, spicy food consumption, and favorite chili source, among other variables. Tracking almost half a million adults through this questionnaire, the scientists followed up seven years later. Compared to people who had spicy food less than once a week, those who had it once or twice a week had a 10 percent reduced risk of dying. People who had spicy meals six to seven times a week had a 14 percent reduced risk.

Though the researchers couldn’t draw any causal links from the observational research, they did see links between eating spicy food and lower risk of death from cancer, ischemic heart disease, and respiratory illness.

It’ll take more research to make the associations concrete, but in the meantime, increasing your spicy food intake moderately might be enough to reap its benefits, lead author Lu Qi told Time.

Still, there’s a bit of a catch: People who got the most benefit from eating spicy food also consumed the least alcohol. So go ahead and make that burrito extra-spicy. Just think twice about how you wash it down.

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