Intended for healthcare professionals


Consumption of hot spicy foods and mortality—is chilli good for your health?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 04 August 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4141
  1. Nita G Forouhi, programme leader
  1. 1MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK
  1. nita.forouhi{at}

Benefits are plausible, but evidence is preliminary

Diet and nutrition have long been regarded as central to health and longevity. Given the vast variety and complexity of human diets, however, the ongoing challenge has been to identify the specific dietary components with a direct effect on health and mortality. The general consensus is that health gains for chronic disease are most likely from healthy dietary patterns that include adequate consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fibre, and fish and that are low in red and processed meats, sugary beverages, and salt.1 2 3 Yet there remains a parallel interest in other common dietary components that may serve as functional foods. Hot spices are one such example and are the subject of a linked paper by Lv and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.h3942).4

Among 0.5 million adults in the China Kadoorie Biobank the authors examined the prospective association of self reported consumption of spicy foods with total and cause specific mortality. Over a median of 7.2 years of observation with 3.5 million person years, during which 20 224 deaths occurred, they report a 14% lower risk (95% confidence interval 10% to 18%) …

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