A taste for spicy food may be good for your heart, new research suggests.
Spicy foods may increase salt sensitivity and dampen the desire to consume salty food which is bad for the heart, researchers in China say.
“High salt intake increases blood pressure and contributes to cardiovascular disease,” said study author Dr Zhiming Zhu. “Thus, reducing salt intake is very important for health.”
Zhu is director of Daping Hospital’s Centre for Hypertension and Metabolic Diseases at theThird Military Medical University in Chongqing.
More than 600 Chinese adults took part in the study.
It was found that when people ate more spices, they felt a reduced craving for salt.
Zhu pointed out that people in most of the world routinely take in far more salt than the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit of 5 grams of dietary salt a day.
The American Heart Association says one should not take more than a single teaspoon of salt — about 2,300 milligrams of sodium — a day.
The new study showed the biggest consumers of spicy food consumed about 2.5 fewer grams of salt daily, compared to those with the blandest palates.
The spice lovers also had systolic (upper) and diastolic (bottom) blood pressure levels that were 8 mm Hg and 5 mm Hg lower, respectively, on average, the findings showed.
According to Zhu, the study provides “insights for the enjoyment of spicy flavor as a promising behavioral intervention for reducing high salt intake and blood pressure”.