Washington D.C. [USA], Oct. 31 : People who enjoy eating spicy food have lower blood pressure, thereby reducing their risk of facing a heart attack or a stroke, finds a recent study.
"Previously, a pilot study found that trace amounts of capsicuin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their pungent smell, enhanced the perception of food being salty," said senior study author Zhiming Zhu from the University in Chongqing.
They wanted to test whether this effect would also reduce salt consumption.
The team enrolled 606 Chinese adults and determined their preferences for salty and spicy flavors and then linked those preferences to blood pressure.
They found that, compared to those who least enjoyed spicy foods, participants with a high spicy preference had 8 mm Hg lower systolic (upper) and 5mm Hg lower diastolic (bottom) blood pressure numbers.
The participants consumed less salt than participants who had a low spicy preference.
They 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.
They found that the areas stimulated by salt and spice overlapped and that spice further increased brain activity in areas activated by salt.
The authors said that this increased activity likely makes people more sensitive to salt so that they can enjoy food with less of it.
"If you add some spices to your cooking, you can cook food that tastes good without using as much salt," Zhu said.
Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.
The research appears in the Journal Hypertension.
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