Eating chilli peppers has been linked to a lower risk of suffering a fatal heart attack, scientists say.
They found people who consumed the spicy fruit more than four times a week had a 40 per cent less smaller of dying of a heart attack.
And their mortality risk for all causes was 23 per cent lower, compared with those who did not eat chillies.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examined 22,811 citizens of the Molise region in Italy, and followed them up after about eight years.
Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, said: “An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed.
“In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, and someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chilli pepper has a protective effect.”
Duane Mellor, a dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School, said the findings were interesting but did not show a causal link.
The study hinted that those following a traditional Mediterranean diet seemed to benefit less than those not following this type of diet, Dr Mellor said.
“This could suggest it is how chillies are used as part of an overall dietary pattern and lifestyle.
“It is plausible people who use chillies, as the data suggests also used more herbs and spices, and as such likely to be eating more fresh foods including vegetables.
“So, although chillies can be a tasty addition to our recipes and meals, any direct effect is likely to be small and it is more likely that it makes eating other healthy foods more pleasurable.”
Licia Iacoviello, professor of hygiene and public health at the Universita dell’Insubria of Varese, said: “Now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health.”
Additional reporting by PA