New treatments for the number one killer in the US – heart disease – always cause intense interest among both scientists and average people. This time the hope comes in a small but fiery package – hot peppers. Scientists from the Chinese University in Hong Kong presented their findings about the effects of capsaicinoids on the heart health at the last meeting of the American Chemical Society in March 2012. Their findings added one more reason for loading up on hot peppers, since the benefits of hot peppers have been intensively researched for a number of conditions.
Hot peppers and capsaicinoids
Cayenne peppers, chili peppers, jalapenos and even regular bell peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, one of six similar compounds called capsaicinoids, which make peppers hot and spicy. Plants developed this spice, in effect toxin, to keep away herbivores and other mammals. Well, human mammals can”t have enough of it, since it has powerful effect on a number of health issues, and not to mention on the flavor of food.
Chinese scientists found that capsaicin protects heart health in two ways: by lowering cholesterol levels by reducing its accumulation in the body and increasing its breakdown; and by blocking the effects of a gene that causes arteries to contract and restrict the blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body.
Capsaicin hard at work
This latest research is just one in the range of studies that found important uses of capsaicin for human health. The link between Capsaicin and pain has been well established after numerous studies. Patches for treating arthritis pain are already available and widely used. Using capsaicin to aid with weight loss program is also widely accepted and capsaicin became an active ingredient in many weight loss supplements.
Intense burning caused by capsaicin is also found to be capable of stopping heart attack in progress, if used topically.
Not for everyone
The same burning effect so useful in pain control can cause increased problems for people with ulcers and other stomach inflammations. Interestingly, capsaicin in low concentration is actually found to protect the stomach from injuries, by stimulating sensory nerve endings.
Even if you are not concerned with health effects of capsaicin in hot peppers, try them for the intense flavor they give to many ethnic dishes. Once you get used to more flavorful food, you will understand why ethnic cuisines are so much healthier than the traditional Western cooking: people use spices to flavor their food instead of fat and sugar.