A new study published by the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that eating more spicy food can help suppress Salt cravings and, by association, help control high blood pressure. And that, by extension, helps lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and associated cardiopulmonary conditions…
The study, published recently in the AHA journal Hypertenson, followed 606 Chinese subjects and recorded their preference levels for both Salt and Spice (hot). The results clearly showed that those with a higher preference for Spicy foods had consistently lower blood pressure than those who preferred Salty foods.
The study report concludes:
The enjoyment of spicy flavor enhanced salt sensitivity and reduced salt preference. Salt intake and salt preference were related to the regional metabolic activity in the insula and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) of participants.
In plain English, that means that the enjoyment of Spicy flavours acts on the brain to reduce cravings for Salt. And, as we said, that’s good for heart health.
The lead author of the the study, Dr. Zhiming Zhu, Director of the Department of Hypertension and Endocrinology at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, says:
“If you add some spices to your cooking, you can cook food that tastes good without using as much salt. Yes, habit and preference matter when it comes to spicy food, but even a small, gradual increase in spices in your food may have a health benefit.”
Cultural differences must be considered…
Americans get about 75 per cent of their Sodium from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods. Chinese people, overall, tend to eat less processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods, and consume less salt and more spice, particularly in the southern regions, including Szechuan and Hunan. Americans tend to have a higher preference for Salt to begin with. So, cultural differences have to be considered when applying the More Spice/Less Salt rule. Zhiming and his colleagues point out that their experiments should be duplicated in other parts of the world to see how the effect works there.
What do we do?
The bottom line seems to be that we should all eat more spicy food – and that should make it easier for us to go easier on the Salt. One wonders how the social landscape would change if uptight New Yorkers and stuck-up Londoners, for example, did more Mexican and took home more Asian take-away, respectively… Or, maybe they would just live longer.
~ Maggie J.