London - Eating chilli peppers four times a week cuts the risk of dying from a heart attack by 40 percent, a study suggests.
Scientists tracked 23 000 adults and found that even those with unhealthy diets were less likely to suffer an early death if they ate plenty of chilli.
The participants, who were tracked for eight years, were 23 percent less likely to die from any cause if they ate lots of chilli, the Italian study found. For stroke deaths the risk fell 60 per cent.
Researcher Dr Marialaura Bonaccio said the diet followed was not important, adding: "In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chilli has a protective effect."
The scientists, whose findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said they were unsure how it improved survival. Other studies have shown capsaicin, which gives chillies their burning sensation, reduces inflammation and improves the balance of gut bacteria.