How Your Chilli Addiction Could Be Helping You Live Longer

By Roger Highfield / July 24, 2014 11:40 AM EDT From the flicker of heat in pepperoncini to the…

Georgia (Jul 25, 2014)By / July 24, 2014 11:40 AM EDT


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From the flicker of heat in pepperoncini to the incendiary burn of the Carolina Reaper, the chilli has conquered the world. These pungent pods are now the most widely grown spice crop of all. But, in recent years, the medical profession has become increasingly interested in the chemical ingredient of its trademark heat, with one recent study even suggesting the spice may also offer a way to help conquer the ravages of old age.

The chilli pepper is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, a member of the nightshade family that includes tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants. The compound that makes them so spicy is known as capsaicin, a nitrogen-containing lipid related to the active principle in vanilla (vanillin) and has the same effect on our pain receptors as heat. …

The origins of domesticated chilli seem to lie in a region of central-east Mexico, in a swathe ranging from southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz. When it comes to studies of domestication, “this is the first research to integrate multiple lines of evidence,” says Gary Nabhan at the University of Arizona, another team member.

We know little about how the Mayans and others in the region used chilli peppers. But research by Terry Powis at Kennesaw State University and colleagues revealed clues in 2,000-year-old pottery samples from a site in southern Mexico, home of the Mixe-Zoquean. They discovered Capsicum residues in a spouted jar, a vessel used for pouring liquid for culinary, pharmaceutical, or ritual uses. …


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