New research is in… if you love hot spicy food, you could be increasing your risk of developing dementia

You may want to think twice before adding chilli sauce or chopped jalapeno to your meal.

A 15-year study of 4 582 Chinese adults aged over 55 found evidence of a faster cognitive decline in those who consistently ate more than 50 grams of chilli a day. Memory decline was even more significant if the chilli lovers were slim.

The study, led by Dr Zumin Shi from Qatar University, showed that those who consumed in excess of 50 grams of chilli a day had almost double the risk of memory decline and poor cognition.

Chilli is great for your weight, but not for your brain

“Chili consumption was found to be beneficial for body weight and blood pressure in our previous studies. However, in this study, we found adverse effects on cognition among older adults,” Dr Zumin says.

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UniSA epidemiologist Dr Ming Li, one of five researchers involved in the study, says chilli intake included both fresh and dried chilli peppers but not sweet capsicum or black pepper.

“Chili is one of the most commonly used spices in the world and particularly popular in Asia compared to European countries,” Dr Li says. “In certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, almost one in three adults consume spicy food every day.”

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Capsaicin is the active component in chilli which reportedly speeds up metabolism, fat loss and inhibits vascular disorders but this is the first longitudinal study to investigate the association between chilli intake and cognitive function.

Those who ate a lot of chili had a lower income and body mass index (BMI) and were more physically active compared to non-consumers. Researchers say people of normal body weight may be more sensitive to chilli intake than overweight people, hence the impact on memory and weight. Education level may also play a role in cognitive decline and this link requires further research.

Source: University of South Australia via