A study published in the journal PLoS ONE has found that eating hot red chili peppers can lengthen life. According to researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, eating this would reduce one’s total mortality by up to 13 percent.

The red chili peppers primarily reduced mortality from heart disease or stroke. The new findings support previous studies that found that benefits of eating this food item. The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III, which involved 16,000 Americans. The participants were followed up for 23 years, the researchers say.

The researchers studied the participants’ baseline characteristics. They found that people who eat hot red chili peppers were more likely to be younger, male, white, Mexican-American and married. They were also more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, eat more vegetables and meat.

These people were also more likely to have lower income, less education and lower HDL-cholesterol. The research team also studied the number of deaths and their specific causes.

According to the study authors: “Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship.”

Researchers believe that capsaicin play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity as well as regulate coronary blood flow. This also has antimicrobial properties that could alter gut bacteria, causing an indirect effect on the body. “Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper — or even spicy food — consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” pointed out study researcher Mustafa Chopan, who is also a medical student.