Spicy food flavoured with hot chilli peppers contains a natural chemical ingredient that may lower blood pressure, according to a study on a strain of laboratory rats with hypertension.
Scientists have discovered that the long-term ingestion of capsaicin, the ingredient in chillies that makes them taste hot, can reduce blood pressure – at least in rats.
Previous studies have produced mixed results when it comes to finding a link between hot chillis and blood pressure, but this may be because they were carried out over relatively short time periods, the scientists said. he latest findings are the first to establish a link between the ingestion of capsaicin over a longer period of time and a subsequent lowering of blood pressure in animals genetically predisposed to having hypertension.
"We found that long-term dietary consumption of capsaicin, one of the most abundant components in chilli peppers, could reduce blood pressure in genetically hypertensive rats," said Zhiming Zhu of Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.
The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, suggests that capsaicin works by activating a special "channel" in the lining of the blood vessels called the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). When the channel is activated, it increases the production of nitric oxide in the blood vessels that is believed to protect against inflammation and other vascular problems.