Study Says Eating Too Much Chili Every Day Could Lead To Dementia, Memory Loss

Study Says Eating Too Much Chili Every Day Could Lead To Dementia, Memory Loss

A new study of more than 4,500 people found those who consumed 50 grams or more of chili a day faced a higher risk of acute memory loss.

It's hard to imagine a culinary technique or style that does not involve spices. No doubt, there are many who consume meals with little to no spice or even salt... but for most of us, spices make up the primary flavor of our food. In fact, spices were so valuable that the entire colonization process in India and South East Asia happened mainly due to the demand for 'exotic' spices in Europe. 

That being said, too much of anything, even a good thing, upsets one's internal balance and causes problems to their system. A new study, conducted by Qatar University, has found that those who consumed 50g or more of chili a day faced a higher risk of acute memory loss.  Several academics from the University of Southern Australia also took part in conducting the study, which surveyed over 4,500 people. 


Dr. Zumin Shi, who was the lead author of the study said that "Chili consumption was found to be beneficial for body weight and blood pressure in our previous studies. However, in this study, we found adverse effects on cognition among older adults". Dr. Ming Li, a co-author of the study remarked that "In certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, almost one in three adults consume spicy food every day."


The research gathered by the scientists revealed that individuals who ate a lot of chilies were linked to a 56% decline in memory over a period of 15 years. The scientists are still unsure as to why this link exists. It's baffling to an extent as the previous studies conducted on the subject suggested that capsaicin, the active component in chili's, helps keep one sharp. But the flipside to their previous studies was that capsaicin in high doses was also shown to deactivate certain nervous centers that deal with pain receptions.

Therefore, this theory is still 'highly speculative' according to the scientists themselves, but they do ascertain that capsaicin does indeed have the potential to affect nerve functionality. So as things stand, they have confirmed that Chili has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity and high blood pressure, which is good news. But on the other hand, the capsaicin component's active role in cognitive functioning has produced results that are not constant, leading to the hypothesis that it could also be a 'neurotoxin'. 



For the actual study, the researchers analyzed chili consumption and cognitive functioning in 4,582 adults over the age of 55. These individuals were a part of the China Health and Nutrition Survey between 1991 and 2006. The scientists monitored the chili intake in each person via a three-day food questionnaire. Their diet included fresh and dried chili peppers. They did not use black peppers or capsicums for their tests. When they analyzed the results, it showed a clear proportion between the amount of spicy food a person ate and their cognitive functioning. Those who consumed more than 50g a day showed signs of acute memory loss compared to those who never ate chili or consumed much less than them. The researchers did take into account that most people in Western countries do not consume 50g of chili a day, but it's fairly common for individuals in Asia, Africa, and South America to do so. 



Dr. Clare Walton, the research manager at Alzheimer's Society, remarked on the study saying that,  "With global dementia figures rising, understanding risk factors, especially those relevant to large populations like China, is certainly a hot topic.  But there were so many differences between the chili lovers and abstainers in this study it doesn't give any conclusive evidence that eating spicy food will increase your risk of dementia. This study didn't assess dementia either,  it only looked at memory and maths test results.  Further research is needed to confirm a link between chili and dementia so, for now, there's no need to avoid the hot sauce."


Don't fret your lungs out! It's not the end of the world. What this study shows is that consuming chili or spices in excess results in certain cognitive functions being affected. There are always detriments to consuming a lot of food products in excess, so bear in mind that this information is meant to help individuals understand their diet and intake a lot better, especially in correlation to their mental health. 

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