MELBOURNE: Love adding that extra kick of chilli pepper to your meal? Consuming more than 50 grammes of the popular spice per day may increase the risk of dementia, a 15-year-long study claims.
The study of 4,582 Chinese adults aged over 55 found evidence of faster cognitive decline in those who consistently ate over 50 grammes of chilli a day.
Memory decline was even more significant if the chilli lovers were slim, according to the study published in the journal Nutrients.
The study, led by Zumin Shi from Qatar University, showed that those who consumed in excess of 50 grammes of chilli a day had almost double the risk of memory decline and poor cognition.
"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," Zumin said.
Chilli intake included both fresh and dried chilli peppers but not sweet capsicum or black pepper, researchers said.
"Chili is one of the most commonly used spices in the world and particularly popular in Asia compared to European countries," said researcher Ming Li from University of South Australia.
"In certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, almost one in three adults consume spicy food every day," Li said.
Capsaicin is the active component in chilli which reportedly speeds up metabolism, fat loss and inhibits vascular disorders but this is the first longitudinal study to investigate the association between chilli intake and cognitive function.
Those who ate a lot of chilies had a lower income and body mass index (BMI) and were more physically active compared to non-consumers.
Researchers said people of normal body weight may be more sensitive to chilli intake than overweight people, hence the impact on memory and weight.