How to live longer: The spice which may ward off cancer and heart disease – study findings

Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer

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There are a multitude of studies which suggest incorporating certain foods and drinks into your diet. Ultimately, the NHS says “eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best”. Nonetheless, one easy way to help you live longer may be to include a certain amount of spice in your diet.

One study, published in the BMJ, examined the associations between the regular consumption of spicy foods and mortality.

The study looked at 199,293 men and 288,082 women aged 30 to 79 years across China after excluding participants with cancer, heart disease, and stroke at baseline.

It found that spicy food consumption “showed highly consistent inverse associations with total mortality” among both men and women after adjustment for other known or potential risk factors.

Compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods six or seven days a week showed a 14 percent relative risk reduction in total mortality.

It concludes: “Our analyses showed significant inverse associations between spicy food consumption and total and certain cause specific mortality (cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases).”

Nonetheless, given the observational nature of this study, “it is not possible to make a causal inference”.

If you have been advised to make dietary changes, for example if you need to lower your cholesterol, there are a number of things to consider and several general rules to follow.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada says: “As a rule of thumb, steer clear of highly processed foods, even if they are lower in fat content. Low-fat or diet foods are often loaded with calories, sodium and added sugar.”

The NHS outlines a number of other lifestyle changes you may be able to make to lower your cholesterol.

A key one is to cut down on alcohol. You should try to avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and avoid binge drinking. You can ask your GP for help if you are struggling to cut down.

There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. The NHS says most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.

The American Heart Association says that in general, red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) have more saturated fat than skinless chicken, fish and plant protein, and can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.

Eating plenty of fibre helps lower your risk of heart disease, and some high-fibre foods can help lower your cholesterol.

The NHS continues: “Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly.

“Most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you choose to take vitamin and mineral supplements, seek advice where appropriate.”

It adds: “Trace elements are also essential nutrients that your body needs to work properly, but in much smaller amounts than vitamins and minerals. They include iodine and fluorine. “

If you’re aged 40 to 74, you can get your cholesterol checked as part of an NHS Health Check.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends all adults have a cholesterol check at any age, even if they feel completely well. It should be repeated every five years – or more often if the test was abnormal.

If you are trying to lose weight, the NHS says you should be sure to do this safely. This includes “setting small and realistic goals” which will help you lose weight safely and will make you more likely to maintain your weight loss.

“Eat three regular, balanced meals a day and try to have meals at planned times. Only include snacks if you’re physically hungry,” it says.

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