While some love to eat spicy, for others it is like torture. But is it really healthy to look deep into the spice jar? Or don’t chili, pepper and the like irritate the stomach lining? FITBOOK has reviewed relevant studies and spoken to experts.
Unlike sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami, spicy is not a taste. Rather, it is a sensory impression caused by the heat and pain receptors in the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat. So some kind of pain.
The fact that the consumption of spiciness burns (and likes to do so twice), could actually mean that you would rather avoid it. At least that’s how it is with herbivores – from an evolutionary point of view, this is the reason why plants produce pungent substances at all. In fact, it is even said to be healthy for humans to eat spicy food. This is also confirmed by some scientists.
Eat spicy for the line
Graduate ecotrophologist Prof. Nicolai Worm is very firm with the paprika pungent substance capsaicin. A brief explanation: green, yellow and red peppers have a much lower concentration of capsaicin than, for example, chili peppers, which can give dishes a really spicy note in the form of cayenne pepper or chilli flakes.
Worm, who works as a nutritionist for overweight people, among other things, calls capsaicin an «energy booster». Because: «Capsaicin manages to increase calorie consumption without the need for sweaty muscle work.» Of course, that doesn’t mean that you lose weight just by eating spicy food. However, it stimulates the metabolism and should therefore be able to support the success of the training.
Nutritionist Uwe Knop takes the same view. He confirms that chili can be digestive, as it stimulates the production of juices in the stomach and throat.
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Prevent diseases with pungent substances?
And it is said that not only a diet, but also life expectancy benefits from spicy food. This is the result of a somewhat older study by Beijing University Hospital, which was published in the British Medical Journal in 2010. An international team of researchers studied the eating habits of test subjects over a period of seven years and found that those who frequently eat spicy foods had a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.
Prof. Worm is not surprised. «There is countless scientific data that the pungent substances, for example from chili, protect relevant organs in the cardiovascular system and can thus help to prevent diabetes and high blood pressure.»
Spicy food can also help prevent colds and other infectious diseases. The stimulus improves blood circulation in the mucous membranes, whose function is important for the immune system, i.e. for fighting off pathogens.
Doctor confirms antibacterial properties
In an interview with FITBOOK, Dr. Ralph-Detlev Dettmer, specialist in internal medicine and naturopathic treatments from Frankfurt am Main, attributed chili heat to antibacterial properties. It is no coincidence that in some oriental countries and in places «where it is difficult in terms of hygiene» the food is good armed becomes. «In this way, stomach infections can be prevented,» says the expert.
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Different sharpness tolerances
Not everyone can benefit from this positive effect on health. Because while some people just can’t get enough chili, others see «slightly spicy» as physical harm. This is according to Dr. Dettmer not a question of assessment, but a question of habit. One could also speak of training.
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The sharper the better?
Some restaurants and supermarkets carry groceries on the Scoville-scale (helps to assess the sharpness of capsaicin containing) are partially high. Against this background, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has examined the degree of spiciness from which sauces and the like pose a health risk.
«The Institute comes to the conclusion that the oral intake of chili fruits, their preparations and corresponding hot to very hot dishes such as traditional African, Arabic, South American or Asian cuisine in the context of international consumption is not associated with acute harmful effects» , according to a corresponding statement. Of course, cases of incompatibility are excluded here.
The dose makes the poison
Certainly an exaggeration, spicy eating contests are where contestants try to outdo each other in terms of tolerance for spiciness—and far from healthy. In 2016, for example, the journal «Journal of Emergency Medicine» reported on a then 47-year-old man who ate a burger with puree made from Bhut Jolokia chillies at one such event – and suffered holes in his esophagus and bruises on the skin of his lungs . He only survived thanks to an emergency operation and left the hospital after 14 days with a feeding tube.
This is logically an extreme extreme case. However, he shows that overdressed can become very dangerous. People with health problems (e.g. of the cardiovascular system) should also know their limits and not exceed them. «And of course any previous illnesses of the esophagus or stomach also play a role,» says the Frankfurter Gastroenterologist Dr. medical Harald Gutberlet on FITBOOK request. «WIf you have severe gastroesophageal reflux disease or gastric mucosal inflammation, spicy food will make it worse.”
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Regularly heating up on spicy food can have a positive effect on your figure and overall health. Therefore, according to our experts, the consumption of pungent substances is recommended – «provided you like and tolerate them,» adds nutritionist Knop. In any case, it is important that the gastrointestinal tract does not rebel and that what should be a pleasure does not become a test of courage. If spicy food only hurts, it does more harm than good.