Is spicy food the most common disease, or just an unusual thing? And what is an ingredient that you’re not afraid of adding in your cooking?
You may be surprised to hear that the answer may depend on where you’re from.
A new study released Friday shows that spice has much higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals in Asia but lower ones in the United States. And the differences are more pronounced among the two regions’ citizens than in general.
The researchers surveyed 1,823 residents living in four locations in China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. They found that the area with the highest levels of cancer-causing compounds and where the highest number of people were diagnosed with one or more cancers was Thailand. The research also shows that those concentrations of cancer-causing compounds were also elevated in areas where the population is more likely to eat spicy food.
Overall, the average annual cancer costs per U.S. resident in these four Asian regions was $17,640. This works out to a cost of $3,977 per person during a lifetime and an average $9,600 in yearly health care related charges.
According to the study, the highest number of cases of cancer in all four countries was in the Philippines (1,827 cases) followed by Kazakhstan (1,086), Japan (998), Turkey (877) and South Korea (772).
That doesn’t really mean a lot. The study wasn’t looking at cancer rates per capita but rather cancer incidence – an indicator of how many people are diagnosed and how much money they can expect to pay in medical costs.
Also, this is what the study found:
The incidence of cancer in Southeast Asia correlates with consumption of spicy food.
The incidence of cancer on average increases among children and adults from age 10 to 21 years as the cumulative consumption of spicy food increases.
The cost of treating the disease is much less in Southeast Asia than it is in Western countries.
Even this lower incidence rate has led Thai researchers to believe that “the health effect of consuming spicy food may be beneficial for the Thai people,” said lead study author Dr. Chanchai Sarakhamdee, a professor of public health at Rajaratnam School of Public Health in Bangkok.
So why is spice so popular in Asian countries, where food is traditionally spicy?
Experts aren’t sure yet, but for now, the findings show that the more people are exposed to spicy
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