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Eating Peppers is Good for You, Maybe: News on Parkinson’s Disease

Mixed Peppers

The Elves here at the Chile Underground have ben espousing increased consumption of peppers of all types for years now. (They’ve also been espousing massive consumption of beer and meat-on-a-stick, but that’s for another article.) Now there’s scientific evidence that their push to get everyone to eat chiles is well-founded. Actually, it’s not their push that’s sound science, but you know what I mean.

Now there’s proof that peppers of all varieties, consumed in reasonable quantities, can help fight Parkinson’s disease. Or at least there’s an indication to that effect. Sort of.

The actual findings: People who eat plenty of peppers (up to five servings a week, or even more) have a decidedly lower incidence of Parkinson’s. Peppers are known to contain small quantities of nicotine. Since previous research indicated that smokers also have a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, the new research would seem to indicate that nicotine is the active agent in preventing Parkinson’s (or at least reducing the risk).

Here’s the soundbite:

In general, vegetable consumption had no effect on Parkinson’s risk. The more vegetables from the Solanaceae plant family that people ate, however, the lower their risk of Parkinson’s disease. This association was strongest for peppers, according to the study, which was published May 9 in the journal Annals of Neurology.

One thing to keep in mind: The actual results don’t prove cause-and-effect, only that a nice correlation exists. That is, it’s not proven that peppers actually cause the reduced risk of Parkinson’s. More research (meaning, more tax dollars spent) is anticipated.

Tomatoes, which are also found in the Solanaceae family, didn’t seem to provide the same protection. Tomatoes are low in nicotine; it takes about a quarter ton of fresh tomatoes to give the same amount of nicotine one would get from a single cigarette. (Hope you’re hungry.) Peppers seem to have about 100 times the nicotine content of tomatoes. Still far short of tobacco, but a surprising amount nonetheless.

So unless you want to spend all your waking hours in a smoky pool hall imbibing second-hand smoke (from the Elves, likely) or take up smoking cigarettes, then we heartily suggest you eat more peppers. Hot, mild, sweet; makes no difference. Or you could go completely crazy and eat eggplant; but who wants to live like that…

The (Disease-Fighting) Heat is ON!


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