Adding some spice to food may make you more aware of the taste of salt, a new study suggests.
The findings, published Tuesday in the journal Hypertension, indicates that eating spicy foods may help us consume less salt — and, ultimately, lower blood pressure.
According to the World Health Organization, people are eating too much salt across the globe, increasing the prevalence of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
That problem prompted Zhiming Zhu, M.D., a professor of cardiovascular medicine and metabolism at the Chongqing Institute of Hypertension in China, to study alternative ways to reduce salt intake.
He and his colleagues decided to specifically focus on spicy food.
Spicy food has been associated with a healthy heart in the past, Zhu explains. People who consume spicy food almost every day have a 14 percent lower risk of death than those who eat spicy foods less than once a week, a 2015 study shows. Those same people are also less likely to die from diabetes, cancer and ischemic heart disease.
In the study, the team first examined if people who eat and enjoy spicy foods actually have lower blood pressure than those who don’t. Participants’ salty and spicy preferences were gauged with taste tests of solutions that contained varying levels of salt and capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers hot. Participants also completed a detailed diet questionnaire about their salty and spicy food habits.