Hot Peppers and Preventing Cancer

By February 16, 2007 Peppers No Comments

Last night, for Valentine’s day, I was treated to sushi. The local place has a roll called the “Kamikaze Roll,” which is delicious and filled with minced raw tuna and spicy hot sauce– hot sauce made from peppers. Many people love spicy foods, often thinking of it as an exotic thing, but there have been hot peppers in the Americas since long before the new world was discovered by Europeans. Today, there was an article from the Associated Press about the ancient history of hot peppers in the Americas. It is thought, according to this article, that hot peppers where first cultivated a little over 6000 years ago, and they’ve been used to spice up dishes every since.

Peppers are known to be rich in vitamin C, and combined with other ancient American produce, like tomatoes and corn, probably made for a decent meal for stone-age Americans. I was listening to NPR the other day, and there was an expert interview about hot peppers (I apologize for not catching his name). He mentioned that capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers spicy may contribute to the prevention of cancer. In laboratories, capsaicin has been observed causing cancer cells to die while not harming normal tissue. According to Wikipedia, it has been used directly and effectively to cure prostate cancer and has been useful in treating lung cancer as well.

According the speaker on NPR, this anti-carcinogenic property of the chemical could explain the low incidence of cancer in Central America, South America, and Mexico where peppers of the genus capsicum are a traditional and much-loved part of the everyday diet. So, enjoy your spicy meal, and know that you might be adding a few years to your life.


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