Here’s a possible blood pressure remedy. But it’s only for those who can stand the heat. It’s capsaicin, the “active ingredient” in peppers like habaneros that should probably be sold by prescription only. While lips burn and eyes water, blood vessels actually relax, thanks to increased production of the signaling molecule nitric oxide. In rodents, anyway.
For seven months, researchers in China fed a steady diet of capsaicin to rats bred to be hypertensive. Long-term consumption of the chemical substantially lowered the rats’ blood pressure. The results appear in the August issue of the journal Cell Metabolism. [Dachun Yang et al., http://bit.ly/aLcuZZ]
Previous research found mixed results with capsaicin, but those studies only looked at short-term effects. Human trials are needed, but there’s already a clue. Some 20 percent of people in northeastern China have high blood pressure. But the southwest—where hot peppers are a dietary staple—has a much lower incidence, half in some places.
Human studies could also confirm whether the habanero, as legend has it, can cause hearing loss. Allegedly so that diners don’t have to listen to their own screams.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]