Hot Peppers Can Help Your Heart
Known for bringing the heat to chili peppers like cayennes, jalapenos, and habaneros, capsaicin also packs a healthy punch. New research adds evidence to the case capsaicin protects the heart and lowers cholesterol.
The health benefit comes from capsaicin (pronounced kap-say-sin), the same compound that makes chili peppers like cayennes, jalapenos, and habaneros so hot. Capsaicin, which also has a reputation for relieving certain kinds of pain, is a widely used ingredient in over-the-counter topical creams and ointments for arthritis.
Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong found capsaicin lowers blood cholesterol levels and blocks a gene that makes arteries contract, which can lead to dangerous blockages of blood flow. Such blockages can cause heart attacks (when blood can’t reach the heart) or strokes (when blood can’t reach the brain).
For the study, the team of researchers fed hamsters high-cholesterol diets. Then they added foods with capsaicinoids, the broader family of substances of which capsaicin is part, to one group's diet.