The news keeps getting better about the health benefits associated with consuming whole foods -- from walnuts to apples -- with this latest discovery by Chinese scientists that a compound found in chili peppers lowered the blood pressure of hypertensive rats.
Capsaicin, the active ingredient that makes chili peppers HOT, was responsible for activating the TRPV1 protein in the lining of blood vessels spurs the natural production of nitric oxide that protects vessels from inflammation.
This isn't the only time scientists have studied the effect of capsaicin on blood pressure (results have varied based on short-term use), but a first look at the benefits of long-term treatment. Researchers suspected a link based on lower rates of hypertension in Chinese regions where eating hot foods like chili peppers was more prevalent. Because these results were based on rats, however, we'll be waiting for awhile until scientists figure out how much capsaicin humans must consume to reduce their blood pressure.
And, for folks who can't eat spicy foods, you're in luck too: A few studies have identified a milder pepper containing capsinoids, structurally similar substances to capsaicin with a tiny hot taste threshold, that may produce a similar effect.
Cell Metabolism, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 109-110, August 4, 2010 Free Full Text Study
ScienceDaily August 3, 2010