Chilli may lower blood pressure, scientists say

Spicy food flavoured with hot chilli peppers contains a natural chemical ingredient that may lower blood pressure, according to a study on a strain of laboratory rats with hypertension.

Scientists have discovered that the long-term ingestion of capsaicin, the ingredient in chillies that makes them taste hot, can reduce blood pressure – at least in rats.

Previous studies have produced mixed results when it comes to finding a link between hot chillis and blood pressure, but this may be because they were carried out over relatively short time periods, the scientists said.

The latest findings are the first to establish a link between the ingestion of capsaicin over a longer period of time and a subsequent lowering of blood pressure in animals genetically predisposed to having hypertension.

"We found that long-term dietary consumption of capsaicin, one of the most abundant components in chilli peppers, could reduce blood pressure in genetically hypertensive rats," said Zhiming Zhu of Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, suggests that capsaicin works by activating a special "channel" in the lining of the blood vessels called the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). When the channel is activated, it increases the production of nitric oxide in the blood vessels that is believed to protect against inflammation and other vascular problems.

The scientists said the study on the rats now needs to be confirmed by analysing any epidemiological association between eating chilli peppers and blood pressure. Dr Zhu said one clue came from China, where the prevalence of hypertension is greater than 20 per cent in the north-eastern regions of the country, but between 10 and 14 per cent in souther-western regions such as Sichuan where spicy food is more commonly eaten.

"People in these regions like to eat hot and spicy foods with a lot of chilli peppers. For example, a very famous local food in my hometown, Chongqing, is the spicy hot pot," Dr Zhu said.

He added that eating hot, spicy food may not be necessary to gain the benefits of chillis because similar compounds are present in sweet peppers. There is, for instance, a mild Japanese pepper, which contains a compound called capsinoid that is closely related to capsaicin. "Limited studies show that these capsinoids produce effects similar to capsaicin. I believe that some people can adopt this sweet pepper," Dr Zhu said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'