A SPICY curry could be the key to a healthy heart.
A compound in hot peppers has been found to lower total cholesterol levels and benefit blood vessels.
Scientists now say chillies have the potential to protect against heart disease, one of Britain’s biggest killers.
The secret lies in the “hot” part of the chilli, the capsaicin, which is hoped could be more widely used by doctors with dramatic results.
The spicy ingredient is something of a health wonder. It has been found to help shrink prostate and pancreatic tumours, works well as a painkiller and helps treat asthma, colds and flu. It has been used for weight loss.
Now experts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have found that capsaicin and a close chemical relative aid heart health in two ways.
First, they lower cholesterol by reducing its build-up in the body and increasing its breakdown and excretion.
Secondly, they also block the action of a gene that makes arteries contract and restrict blood flow to the heart and other organs.
The study, presented at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, focused on capsaicin and fiery-hot “capsaicinoids” which give cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros and other chillies their heat.
Dr Zhen-Yu Chen, a professor of food and nutritional science, said: “We concluded that capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving factors related to heart and blood vessel health.
“But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chillies to excess.
“A good diet is a matter of balance. Chillies may be a nice supplement for people who find the hot flavour pleasant.”