Hot chilli peppers could provide protection against heart problems . Capsaicinoids, which put the heat into capsaicin, jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne and other peppers, helps keeps hearts healthy in two vital ways.
They cut cholesterol levels and quicken its breakdown via excretion as well as blocking a gene that contracts arteries and lessens blood flow to the heart, so causing more blood to travel through vessels.
Previous studies have discovered that chilies help lower blood pressure, cut cholesterol and help prevent blood clotting. Capsaicin creams are also available to help combat arthritis and other pain.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) heard about the pioneering research at its National Meeting and Exposition in San Diego, USA.
Professor Zhen-Yu Chen, who lectures in food and nutritional science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, presented the findings to ACS members.
He says, "We concluded that capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving a range of factors related to heart and blood vessel health. But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chilies to excess.
"A good diet is a matter of balance. And remember, chilies are no substitute for the prescription medications proven to be beneficial. They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavour pleasant."
Professor Chen and his team studied the effect of chilli peppers on male hamsters, as research is not permitted in humans.
The scientists put the hamsters on high-cholesterol diets and split them into groups. Each group was given differing amounts of capsaicinoids, apart from the control group that had none. The results were then analysed.
The capsaicinoids cut total bad cholesterol levels in the blood and did not reduce the good cholesterol. They also found clues that the size of deposits in the blood vessels, which reduces arteries and can contribute to a heart attack, might also be lessened.
Capsaicinoids also hindered a gene that makes cyclooxygenase-2, which compresses the muscles around blood vessels. This allows muscles to relax and increase in size, which causes greater blood flow.