Spices have been an integral part of culinary cultures around the world and have a long history of use for flavoring, coloring, and preserving food, as well as for medicinal purposes. The increased use of spices as flavorings in foods is a major trend worldwide. In China, chilli pepper is among the most popular spicy foods consumed nationwide.
The beneficial effects of spices and their bioactive ingredients such as capsaicin have long been documented in experimental or small sized population studies. For example, an ecological study showed that populations with a higher consumption of spices have a lower incidence of cancer. The ingestion of red pepper was found to decrease appetite and energy intake in people of Asian origin and white people and might reduce the risk of overweight and obesity. In addition, the bioactive agents in spices have also shown beneficial roles in obesity, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal conditions, various cancers, neurogenic bladder, and dermatological conditions. Moreover, spices exhibit antibacterial activity and affect gut microbiota populations, which in humans have been recently related to risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis, and cancer. These data collectively suggest that spices may have a profound influence on morbidities and mortality in humans; however, the evidence relating daily consumption of spicy foods and total and disease specific mortality from population studies is lacking.
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