A recent study conducted by Professor Ji-Wook Kim and his research team from Hallym University Dongtan Sacred Heart Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry analyzed the impact of spicy food consumption on Alzheimer’s disease (senile dementia) in a group of 196 individuals aged 65 to 90.
Among the participants, 113 had normal cognitive function, while the remaining 83 were not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but showed mild cognitive impairment.
The research team categorized the elderly individuals based on the intensity of spicy food consumed at least once a week for one year. The categories were “no spicy taste” (93 individuals), “mild spicy taste” (58 individuals), and “strong spicy taste” (45 individuals). They evaluated the relationship between the known decline in episodic memory, a type of memory associated with personally experienced events, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings revealed that the group with a high level of spicy food consumption exhibited signs of memory impairment, which are considered early cognitive changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Conversely, the groups consuming mild spicy food or no spicy food showed no such signs of impairment.
The association between spicy food consumption and cognitive decline was more pronounced in individuals with low physical activity levels.
The research team evaluated their findings in the context of animal studies that demonstrated neurotoxicity induced by high-dose capsaicin consumption, as well as previous international studies linking higher consumption of spicy peppers to reduced cognitive function.
Furthermore, the team added that engaging in regular physical activity can protect the brain from neurotoxicity through various mechanisms, even for individuals who enjoy spicy food.
Professor Ji-Wook Kim emphasized the clinical significance of providing evidence of the cognitive decline associated with consuming spicy food in individuals without Alzheimer’s disease. He suggested considering the intensity of spicy taste in daily dietary choices, as milder or less spicy options did not show any association with cognitive decline.
The study results have been published in the latest issue of the international scientific journal “Scientific Reports.”