A slew of recent research is pointing to hot chilis as a surprising superfood that reduces cravings, prevents liver damage and possibly increases levels of testosterone. A recent massive Chinese study of half a million people aged 30 to 70 found that those who consumed spicy food most days of the week had a 14 percent lower risk of premature death from all causes, compared with people who ate spicy foods less than once a week.
While the Chinese study didn’t point to a specific mechanism, it’s believed chili’s active ingredient, capsaicin, is responsible for several beneficial effects. A separate study, by the University of Adelaide, found that hot chili peppers activate receptors in the stomach that bring on a feeling of fullness, reducing hunger and food cravings. These are the same receptors that activate gastric nerves when the stomach stretches which tell the stomach it’s full. Capsaicin may also protect the liver.
In a study presented to the 2015 International Liver Congress, capsaicin was found to reduce the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) in mice — the cells that cause liver fibrosis, or the formation of damaging scar tissue in response to liver damage. And a French study of 114 men recently showed that the more spicy food they ate, the more likely they were to have higher levels of endogenous testosterone.