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Spicy food can help reduce unhealthy salt cravings

If you like eating spicy Chinese food, you’re more likely to have less desire for salt and lower blood pressure, which can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a new report. study.

“Previously, a pilot study found that small amounts of capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their pungent odor, improves the perception that food is salty,” said Zhiming Zhu, a professor at Third Medical University. Military in Chongqing, China. .

“We wanted to test if this effect would also reduce salt intake,” added Zhu.

The study enlisted more than 600 Chinese adults and determined their preference for salty and spicy flavors. The researchers linked these preferences to blood pressure.

The results, published in the review Hypertension, showed that, compared to those who enjoyed less spicy foods, participants with a high spicy preference had lower blood pressure and consumed less salt than participants who had a low spicy preference . .

They also used imaging techniques to look at two brain regions of the participants, the insula and the orbitofrontal cortex, which are known to be involved in the salty taste.

The researchers found that salt and spice-stimulated areas overlapped, and that spices further increased brain activity in salt-activated areas.

This increased activity is likely to make people more sensitive to salt so they can enjoy food with less amount, the researchers said.

“If you add spices to your kitchen, you can cook foods that taste great without using as much salt,” Zhu said.

“Yes, habit and preference matter when it comes to spicy foods, but even a small, gradual increase in spices in foods can have a beneficial effect on health,” Zhu said.