- New research shows that spicy food—chili in particular—might lead to a greater risk of dementia.
- Participants who ate more than 50 grams of chili a day had a higher risk of experiencing cognitive decline with age.
- Researchers analyzed 4582 Chinese individuals over the age of 55 for 15 years: the team tracked their food intake and conducted regular cognitive screen tests.
- The researchers ultimately found that those who consumed an excessive amount of chili (over 50 grams a day) had almost double the risk of memory deterioration.
- This decline was even more significant in consistent chili consumers who had a low body mass index.
A new study “High Chili Intake and Cognitive Function among 4582 Adults: An Open Cohort Study over 15 Years” from the University of South Australia suggests that people who tend to eat spicy foods might be at a greater risk of developing dementia than those who eat bland foods. To be more specific, in this research, those who ate more than 50 grams of chili a day had an increased risk of cognitive decline as they got older.
Previous studies conducted by these researchers showed that the consumption of chili—a commonly used spice—was beneficial for body weight and blood pressure. This study, however, focused on cognitive effects of chili consumption.
Researchers analyzed 4582 Chinese individuals over age 55 for 15 years. Cognitive screen tests were conducted in regular intervals between 1991 and 2006. Tasks included: recalling a 10-word list, counting backwards from 20, and doing basic math. Additionally, chili intake was evaluated using a food record.
The research team found that participants who ate over 50 grams of chili a day experienced faster cognitive decline—these individuals had almost double the risk of memory deterioration. This decline was even more significant in consistent chili consumers who were thin.
Additionally, the participants who ate a lot of chili tended to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and were more physically active than those who didn’t eat chili in excess. The researchers say people of lower or normal body weight may be more sensitive to chili than those who are overweight.
Many people around the world enjoy spicy foods—in fact, almost 1 in 3 adults in certain areas of China consume spicy food every single day. But this study shows that we might want to watch our spice intake. While chili consumption might come with some positive effects, as it can speed up metabolism and help with fat loss, this study shows that it might have negative effects on cognition.
Shi, Z., El-Obeid, T., Riley, M., et al. (2019, May 27). High Chili Intake and Cognitive Function among 4582 Adults: An Open Cohort Study over 15 Years. Nutrients. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/5/1183/htm