|Chicken chilli momos (Bangalore). Source: Vikramdewangan22889|
The mechanism of action is not totally clear, but it is thought that activation of the TRP channels by capsaicin (the substance that gives chilli its heat) is largely responsible. TRP channel activation results in anti-obesity cellular processes and modulation of blood flow to the heart. Capsaicin also has an antimicrobial effect, possibly reducing levels of excessive gut bacteria. Chilli also contains vitamin C, B vitamins and carotenoids, which have their own health benefits. Research on mice has found that TRP channels, such as the capsaicin-sensitive TRPV, can have positive effects on recovery after ischaemia and preconditioning protection against heart ischaemia.
These results help to verify the larger Chinese study. Researchers in China looked at the data on health and diet of over 487,000 participants, with an average follow-up time of seven years. Over these seven years, the death rate for those who ate dishes containing chilli once or twice a week was 10% lower than for those who ate chilli less than weekly. People who ate chilli three or more times a week had a 14% lower risk of dying. The protective effect was also more pronounced for participants who drank alcohol. Specific causes of death that chilli was most protective against were ischaemic heart disease, respiratory diseases and cancers, with fresh chilli being superior to dried chilli. Overall, if you aren't currently a fan of chilli or the cultural cuisines that feature spicy dishes, it could be worthwhile to start exploring them. SBS Food has recipes from many, if not most, cultures around the world, from Moroccan to Singaporean and South American cuisine.