At a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), it was recently announced that capsaicin, the compound responsible for the spice of many peppers, may have profound implications for heart health.
Researchers from theChineseUniversityofHong Kongfound that the compound may be able to reduce heart attack risk by blocking a gene that makes arteries contract.
This isn’t the first time chili peppers with high amounts of capsaicin have been in the hot seat, so to speak. In addition to their culinary applications, peppers containing considerable amounts of the spicy compound have been thought to help with cholesterol balance, blood pressure and pain relief (when applied topically via an over-the-counter cream or ointment). Interestingly, they’re also used in many countries to open the mind and stimulate mental strength.
With all of the health benefits presented by the tiny-but-powerful foods containing capsaicin, why aren’t we eating more of them?
Because they can get hot, hot, hot! Many people have a sensitivity to the spicy nature of capsaicin and its vehicle, peppers.
The spice of a pepper is measured by the Scoville scale, which measures the Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This scale ranges from 0 (what you find in a bell pepper) to 16,000,000 (The SHU of 100 percent pure capsaicin).
Here’s an easy-to-read chart with some of the most common peppers and where they fall of the Scoville scale. Given the many medicinal applications of peppers, we suggest referencing this chart and maybe trying to kick it up a notch the next time you cook with chili peppers.
 American Chemical Society (2012). Hot pepper compound could help hearts. Retrieved from: http://portal.acs.org/.