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Spicy Foods Trick the Brain to Use Less Salt

01 Novembre 2017

Researchers found that people in China who enjoyed spicy foods the most tended to eat less salt and have lower blood pressure than those who enjoyed spicy foods the least, according to the study.

And the spicy food fans consumed less salt than participants who had a low spicy preference.

The enjoyment of spicy foods significantly reduced a person's preference for salt - and subsequent intake of it - by modifying that individual's taste for salt in the brain, said lead author Dr. Zhiming Zhu, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.

Reducing the amount of salt in the diet also reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers then linked those preferences to blood pressure.

People trying to curb the amount of salt they're eating may want to look at the humble jalapeño.

Now, however, researchers think that they have found a way to "rig" this neurobiological process: eating spicy foods seems to be tricking our brain into not wanting salty foods as much.

For the current study, researchers wanted to see if this heightened awareness of salty flavours in food might translate into lower salt intake, Zhu said.

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Those that ate more spicy foods had an 8mm lower systolic, and a 5mm lower diastolic blood pressure.

The researchers focused on two brain regions - the insula and orbitofrontal cortex - known to be responsive to the taste of salt.

The researchers found that the more that people in the study said they enjoyed spicy flavors, the more sensitive they were to saltiness and the lower their threshold was for considering something too salty.

They say that supplementation is proven to improve immune function and our heart health as well as lower risks for metabolic syndrome, the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

They found that the areas stimulated by salt and spice overlapped, and that spice further increased brain activity in areas activated by salt.

"If you add some spices to your cooking, you can cook food that tastes good without using as much salt", said Zhu.

However, the authors also admit that the study sample was limited to the Chinese population, so future studies should aim to investigate whether or not these findings can be replicated in other populations.

Spicy Foods Trick the Brain to Use Less Salt