Heavy chilli consumption linked to dementia, study says

Researchers from South Australia  explore the link between chilli intake and cognitive function.
Researchers from South Australia explore the link between chilli intake and cognitive function. Photo: iStock

Do you add hot sauce to many of your favourite dishes? Beware, because a spicy diet could raise your dementia risk.

Researchers from the University of South Australia recently conducted a study, published in the Nutrients journal, to explore the association between chilli intake and cognitive function.

To do so, they examined 4582 Chinese adults aged 55 and older for 15 years. The subjects recorded their food intake and underwent cognitive screen tests throughout the assessment.

After analysing the results, the team found those who ate more than 50 grams of chilli a day had a faster cognitive decline, compared to those who consumed fewer than 50 grams of chilli daily. Fifty grams of chilli is equivalent to about three to four tablespoons of dried chilli peppers.

Those who had more than 50 grams of the spice a day almost had double the risk of memory decline and poor cognition, and the decline was even more significant for slim participants.

"Chilli 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," lead author Zumin Shi said in a statement.

Chilli is one of the most commonly used spices in the world, but it's particularly popular in Asia, according to the study. It's uncommon to consume more than 50 grams of chilli daily in Western countries. However, "in certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, almost one in three adults consume spicy food every day," co-author Ming Li said.

The scientists revealed those who ate lots of chilli had a lower income and body mass index and were more physically active than those who didn't consume as much chilli.

They also noted people with a normal body weight may be more sensitive to chilli intake than overweight individuals.

The team now hopes to continue their studies to determine if reducing chilli intake can lower dementia risk.

Tribune Content Agency