DOHA, NETRALNEWS.COM - A study of more than 4,500 people found that those who consumed 50 g of chili a day were twice as likely to complain of having poor memory. Eating lots of chili is also associated with a 56 percent reduction in memory for 15 years, research reveals.
Scientists aren't sure why the link exists, with some studies showing the active components of chili peppers can make our memories stay sharp. However, high-dose capsaicin has been used to 'deactivate' the nerves that cause pain. The researchers claim because it can affect nerve 'viability' but warn its theory is 'very speculative', and other experts convince chili lovers do not need to avoid spicy first.
Scientists at Qatar University lead the study, which also involves academics from the University of Southern Australia.
"Consumption of chili was found to be beneficial for body weight and blood pressure in our previous study. However, in this study, we found adverse effects on cognition among older adults," said lead author Dr. Zumin Shi, as quoted from the Daily Mail.
Chili is one of the most widely used herbs in the world, with a very high intake in Asia. Study co-author Dr Ming Li said, in certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, nearly one in three adults eat spicy food every day.
Chili has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity, high blood pressure and even premature death. This is presumably because capsaicin decreases 'internal pressure'. However, animal studies that see the role of capsaicin in cognitive function have produced mixed results, with some suggesting it is 'neurotoxic'.
To learn more, the researchers analyzed 4,582 adults over 55 years who were part of the Chinese Health and Nutrition Survey between 1991 and 2006. Of these, 3,302 had cognitive functions assessed in at least two sessions in 1997, 2000, 2004 or 2006.
This involves them being asked to remember 10 words from the list and counting down from 20 words. The participants were also asked to rate their memories on a scale of 'very good' to 'very poor'.
Chili intake was monitored through a three-day food questionnaire during each survey. This includes fresh chili and dried chili, but not peppers or black pepper.
The results show that the more spicy the food is eaten by participants, the lower their cognitive function. Compared to participants who never ate chili, those who consumed more than 50g a day had twice the risk of poor memories.
Further research is needed to confirm the relationship between chili and dementia so that for now, there is no need to avoid spicy foods.