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Chili intake inversely associated with overweight, obesity risk

04 Aug 2017

Individuals who consume high levels of chili have low odds of becoming overweight or obese, according to a study in a Chinese population.

The study followed 12,970 adults aged 20 to 75 years between 1991 and 2011 (median follow-up, 9 years). Dietary data were obtained during home visits using a 3-day food record in 1991, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2011. Cox regression facilitated analysis of chili intake in relation with the risk of overweight/obesity (defined as body mass index ≥25 kg m−2).

During 126,884 person-years of follow-up, 3,203 individuals developed overweight/obesity. When analysis was stratified by intake of chili, the absolute incidence rate of overweight/obesity per 1,000 person-years was 26.4 among those who were nonconsumers, 22.3 among those with intake of 1 to 20 g/day, 24.4 among those with intake of 20.1 to 50 g/day, and 20.5 among those with intake of ≥50.1 g/day.

The respective hazard ratios for overweight/obesity in groups with cumulative average chili intake of 0, 1 to 20, 20.1 to 50 and ≥50.1 g/day were 1.00, 0.81 (95 percent CI, 0.73 to 0.89), 0.77 (0.69 to 0.86) and 0.73 (0.63 to 0.84; all, p<0.001 for trend).

No association was observed between chilli intake and gender, income, education and residence (urban/rural) in relation to the risk of overweight/obesity.

One of the most commonly used spices worldwide, chili contains capsaicin, which has been shown to have several benefits, including reducing mortality, obesity and rhinitis. The active component is also said to increase muscle strength. [BMJ 2015;351:h3942; Int J Obes 2016;40:1198-204; Allergy Asthma Rep 2016;16:1-5; J Nutr Health Aging 2016;20:546-552]

A potential mechanism underlying the protective association between chili intake and overweight/obesity is the increased energy expenditure associated with capsaicin, researchers said.

Given the present data and that majority of the population already eat chili, “encouraging more regular and higher chilli consumption may provide a low cost and simple strategy to reduce the incidence of overweight and obesity,” they added.

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