According to a new study published in the American Heart Association publication Hypertension, in China, people who eat spicy food eat less salt and have lower blood pressure, which potentially reduces their risk of heart disease and stroke.
“A previous study found that trace amounts of capsaicin (a substance that imparts a pungent odor to peppers) enhances the perception of salty taste in food,” said Professor Zhiming Zhu, senior author of the study and director of the Department of Hypertension and Endocrinology at the Third Military Medical University. . “We want to check if this effect also reduces salt intake.”
The study consisted of 606 Chinese adults who determined their preference for salty and spicy flavors and then linked those preferences to their blood pressure.
They found that people with a high preference for spicy food showed the following characteristics: systolic blood pressure (high pressure) was 8 mm Hg lower, diastolic blood pressure (low pressure) was lower than 5 people who did not like spicy food. Millimetres of mercury; consume less salt than people who don’t like spicy food.
The researchers also used imaging techniques to observe the subject’s two brain regions, the insula and the orbital prefrontal cortex, which are known to be associated with salty perception. They found that the areas stimulated by salty and spicy overlap, and the spicy significantly enhanced the activity of the brain in the salt-activated area. The authors say that this enhanced activity may make people more sensitive to salt so they can enjoy less salty food.
All subjects are from China, so more in-depth research is needed to determine if these findings are also appropriate for other countries.
“If you add some peppers while cooking, you don’t have to add a lot of salt to make a delicious food,” Zhu said. “Yes, whether it’s spicy or not is related to habits and preferences, but even in your food. A small amount and a gradual increase in some spicy flavors can bring health benefits.”
Salt and sodium are often exchangeable concepts, but they are not the same. More than 75% of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods, not salt cans. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than one teaspoon of salt (2300 mg of sodium) should be taken daily.