People who like spicy foods may eat less salt and have lower blood pressure, potentially reducing their risk of heart attacks and strokes, a study from China suggests.
When people didn’t care for spicy food, they consumed an average of 13.4 grams a day of salt, according to the study published in the journal Hypertension. But when people craved spicy dishes, their average salt intake was just 10.3 grams a day.
Systolic blood pressure was 8 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) lower for people with the greatest love of spicy foods than for individuals with the lowest tolerance for spice, the study also found. Diastolic blood pressure was 5 mmHg lower for spice lovers, Reuters reported.
“Our study shows that the enjoyment of spicy flavor is an important way to reduce salt intake and blood pressure, no matter the type of food and the amount of food,” said senior study author Dr. Zhiming Zhu of Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.
“We advise people to enjoy spicy food in their daily life as long as they can tolerate,” Zhu said added.
Researchers also used imaging techniques to look at two regions of the participants’ brains — the insula and orbitofrontal cortex — known to be involved in salty taste.
A high-salt diet has long been linked to higher odds of developing high blood pressure and heart disease as well as an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.