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Chilli peppers may be good for blood pressure

Thursday August 5th, 2010

Chilli peppers might set your mouth on fire, but they could be of benefit for people with high blood pressure, research has revealed.

Chinese scientists carrying out research in rats discovered that the active ingredient in peppers, a compound called capsaicin, leads blood vessels to relax.

"We found that long-term dietary consumption of capsaicin, one of the most abundant components in chilli peppers, could reduce blood pressure in genetically hypertensive rats," said Zhiming Zhu of Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.

The research, reported in the Cell Metabolism, found the effects depended on the chronic activation of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel found in the lining of blood vessels.

Activation of the channel led to an increase in production of nitric oxide, a gaseous molecule that is known to protect blood vessels against inflammation and dysfunction. Zhu said the findings in rats should be confirmed in humans through epidemiological analysis.

Although there have been previous studies that have linked capsaicin and lower blood pressure, this is the first to examine the effects of long-term treatment with capsaicin in rats with high blood pressure.

Although his study did not ascertain how many capsaicin-containing chilli peppers a day need to be eaten to "keep the doctor away”, more research should be carried out, said Zhu.

A mild Japanese pepper might also benefit those who cannot eat spicy foods because it contains a compound called capsinoid, which is closely related to capsaicin.

"Limited studies show that these capsinoids produce effects similar to capsaicin," Zhu added.

Tags: Asia | Diet & Food | Heart Health

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