Bring on the chillies, the hot salsas, and the spicy curries. A new study of the diets of 490,000 Chinese people over the course of seven years finds that spicy food consumption is linked to longer lives. The study, published in the BMJ, finds that habitual consumption of spicy foods was inversely associated with total and certain cause specific mortality (cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases).”

The international team of authors surveyed individuals between 30 and 79 years old living throughout China, asking them how often they ate spicy foods and what kind of spices they ate. They found that independent of other risk factors, eating spicy foods six or seven days a week was associated with a 14 percent lower risk of mortality than eating spicy foods only once a week. The effect seemed to be stronger for those people who ate fresh chili versus dried, as well as for people who did not drink alcohol.

The researchers caution against reading too much into the relationship between spice and health. This study did not establish that eating spicy foods was the cause of the lower mortality rate, and it’s possible that it was due to some other diet or lifestyle factor associated with the type of people in China who happen to eat more spicy foods.

It’s too soon to start shoving your face full of hot peppers in search of the fountain of youth, but previous research has also indicated that capsaicin, the spicy compound in peppers, might have some beneficial properties as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-carcinogenic agent. And replacing your beer with a spicy bowl of vegetables probably isn’t a bad idea, health-wise.

[h/t: The Guardian]