When it comes to cuisine, spiciness is a preference that is unique to everyone. Like my roommate and I for example: whenever we get Thai food, he gets “Thai-hot,” which is basically as spicy as you can make the food.
I will say that, while I don’t like my food to be too spicy, I will typically pick a spicy food over a non-spicy food. And apparently the rest of the country has the same tendency.
Consumer Flavor Trend found in a 2013 report that about 54 percent of Americans prefer hot or spicy foods, which includes different condiments, sauces and dips, as well.
This number has risen steadily over the years: only 48 percent enjoyed spicy foods in 2011, and 46 percent two years prior to that.
These numbers might not mean much by themselves, but a new study out of China has discovered that spicy foods might actually increase our life expectancy.
The survey researchers studied had data from over 500,000 Chinese citizens which had been collected from 2004 to 2008. The survey featured questions about their diets; it also prompted people to note how much chili they consumed per week.
Checking back in with their participants seven years later, researchers discovered that people who ate spicy foods at least once a week were 10 percent less likely to die. That number rose to 14 percent if the individual ate spicy foods at least three to seven times each week.
“We know something about the beneficial effects of spicy foods basically from animal studies and very small-sized human studies,” associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Lu Qi, told Time.
Past research has found that capsaicin, the active component in most spicy dishes, has ties to decreased risks of cancer and heart and respiratory diseases. Other benefits include positive effects on the metabolism, on one’s weight and on the bacteria in our stomachs.
“It appears that increasing your intake moderately, just to one to two or three to five times a week, shows a very similar protective effect,” Qi said.
“Just increase moderately. That’s maybe enough.”
So, it might be beneficial to keep a bottle of Tabasco or Cholula handy at all times, just to give your food that extra spicy, healthy kick that it needs. As long as you’re not downing a bottle each night, it might just help you live longer.