How a Preference for Spicy Foods May Lower Blood Pressure

Spicy food can affect the salt taste information processed by the orbitofrontal cortex
Spicy food can affect the salt taste information processed by the orbitofrontal cortex

HealthDay News — Enjoyment of spicy food seems to reduce individual salt preference, salt intake, and blood pressure, according to research published online October 31 in Hypertension.

Qiang Li, from Daping Hospital in China, and colleagues conducted a random-order, double-blind observational and interventional study in 606 participants and an animal study to examine the impact of spicy flavor on central salty-taste perception. 

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The researchers found that compared with subjects who disliked spicy foods, subjects with a high spice preference had a lower salt intake and blood pressure. Spicy food enjoyment enhanced sensitivity to salt and reduced salt preference. Salt intake and salt preference were correlated with the regional metabolic activity in the insula and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Capsaicin administration enhanced the insula and OFC metabolic activity in response to high-salt stimuli; this led to reversal of the salt intensity-dependent differences in metabolism of the insula and OFC. OFC activity in the animal study was closely linked to salt preference, and the presence of capsaicin affected salty-taste information processed in the OFC.

"Enjoyment of spicy foods may significantly reduce individual salt preference, daily salt intake, and blood pressure by modifying the neural processing of salty taste in the brain," the authors write. "Application of spicy flavor may be a promising behavioral intervention for reducing high salt intake and blood pressure."

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