A connection between pain and aging has been found in lab mice, and capsaicin, the spicy compound in chile peppers, may be the key.
Scientists have been puzzled as to why people who experience chronic pain tend to have shorter lifespans, but a new study may have the answer. Lab mice that were bred without a specific pain receptor were found to live longer and were less likely to develop diseases such as diabetes as they age.
Researchers from the University of California (UC), Berkeley, bred mice without a specific pain receptor that can be found in the skin, nerves, and joints. You know it best when you eat a jalapeño and feel your mouth burning, because this receptor is activated by capsaicin. Mice without the pain receptor lived, on average, 14 percent longer than normal mice, the researchers reported in Cell.
Lead researcher Andrew Dillin notes that diets rich in capsaicin have already been linked to lower incidences of diabetes and metabolic problems in humans, and he suggests the possibility exists that eating spicy foods can extend your lifespan. "Prolonged exposure to capsaicin can actually kill the neuron" that transmits signals from the pain receptor, he explains. If those signals were knocked out, that may replicate the effects of being born without the receptor in the first place.
I'd be interested in seeing if we observe longer lifespans in cultures that traditionally embrace spicy foods. Do any of you plan on increasing your intake of capsaicin?
Source: Science Magazine