Clinical Edge

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Spicy Foods and Mortality

Population-based study examines links

The consumption of spicy foods was inversely associated with total and certain cause specific mortality, independent of other risk factors of death, including cancer, heart disease and stroke, according to a population-based cohort study of 199,293 men and 288,082 women aged 30 to 79 years in China. Specifically:

• Spicy food consumption showed highly consistent inverse associations with total mortality among both men and women.

• Compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once per week, adjusted hazard ratios for death were 0.90, 0.86, and 0.86 for those who ate spicy food 1 or 2, 3 to 5, and 6 or7 days per week.

• A 14% relative risk reduction in total mortality was shown among those who consumed spicy foods 6 or 7 days per week.

Citation: Lv J, Qi L, Yu C, et al. Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study. BMJ 2015;351:h3942. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h3942.

Commentary: This is the type of study that I look forward to and use as an argument to defend my eating habits. Previous studies have shown that chocolate consumption decreases blood pressure and mortality1-3. Pistachio consumption has been associated with beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and insulin resistance4. This study makes me think of suggesting to a local restaurant a new health food, based on the evidence, that I would suggest they call the “Skolnik Meal” — a spicy, chocolate pistachio taco. —Neil Skolnik, MD

1. Taubert D, Roesen R, Lehmann C, Jung N, Schomig E. Effects of low habitual cocoa intake on blood pressure and bioactive nitric oxide. JAMA. 2007; 298(1):49-60.

2. Taubert D, Roesen R, Schomig E. Effect of cocoa and tea intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2007; 167(7):626-634.

3. Buijsse B, Feskens EJM, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:411-417.

4. Hernandez-Alonso P, Salas-Salvado J, Baldrich-Mora M, Juanola-Falgarona M, Bullo M. Beneficial effect of pistachio consumption on glucose metabolism, insulin resisteance, inflammation, and related metabolic risk markers: a randomized clinical trial. Diabetes Care 2014;37:1–8.