Researchers from the University of South Australia recently conducted a study, published in the Nutrients journal, to explore the association between chili intake and cognitive function.
To do so, they examined 4,582 Chinese adults age 55 and older for 15 years. The subjects recorded their food intake and underwent cognitive screen tests throughout the assessment.
After analyzing the results, the team found those who ate more than 50 grams of chili a day had a faster cognitive decline, compared with those who consumed fewer than 50 grams of chili daily. Fifty grams of chili is equivalent to about three to four tablespoons of dried chili peppers.
Those who had more than 50 grams of the spice a day almost had double the risk of memory decline and poor cognition, and the decline was even more significant for slim participants.
"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," lead author Zumin Shi said in a statement.
Chili is one of the most commonly used spices in the world, but it’s particularly more popular in Asia, according to the study. It’s uncommon to consume more than 50 grams of chili daily in Western countries. However, “in certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, almost one in three adults consume spicy food every day,” co-author Ming Li said.
The scientists revealed those who ate lots of chili had a lower income and body mass index and were more physically active than those who didn’t consume as much chili.
They also noted people with a normal body weight may be more sensitive to chili intake than overweight individuals.
The team now hopes to continue their studies to determine if reducing chili intake can lower dementia risk.