You may not like spicy and sharp flavours of chili peppers and ginger, but new research suggests the ingredients, when paired together, work to lower your cancer risk.
While doctors already point to ginger for its health benefits in taming nausea and vomiting, soothing burns or even in fighting arthritis, capsaicin – the plant compound in chili peppers – has been tied to stomach cancer warnings. Capsaicin is what gives peppers their spicy kick and it’s also been tied to burning fat.
Scientists out of the American Chemical Society (ACS) say that the spice combination works together – the pungent compound in ginger, called 6-ginergol, could counteract capsaicin’s potentially harmful effects, they say.
“Both chili peppers and ginger are widely used spices in certain cuisines, particularly in Asia and have been studied for potential health effects. Although some studies have shown that peppers can have benefits, others suggest that diets rich in capsaicin might be associated with stomach cancer,” the researchers explain.
“Ginger, however, has shown promise as a health-promoting ingredient. Oddly enough, capsaicin and 6-gingerol both bind to the same cellular receptor – one that is related to tumour growth,” they said.
This is why the researchers wanted to study the combination – they couldn’t understand why both spices were tied to the same cells.
They carried out an experiment feeding mice that were prone to cancer either chili peppers or ginger, or a combination of both.
Turns out, all the mice that were fed capsaicin exclusively ended up developing lung cancer while only half of the mice that were fed ginger ended up with lung carcinomas.
But only 20 per cent of the mice fed both ingredients developed cancer even though they were predisposed to the disease.
Chili peppers have been tied to alleviating headaches and even stalling inflammation. In some studies, peppers lowered risk of death from cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to some reports.
“The data encourages people to eat more spicy food to improve health and reduce mortality risk at an early age,” Dr. Lu Qi, a Harvard University professor, told the BBC.
In other instances, ginger is recommended to fight nausea, morning sickness in pregnant women and to soothe a sore throat and airways.
The ACS scientists say that what’s likely at play is the two ingredients binding together to form a strong compound that fights tumour growth.
Their full findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.