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Cancer-causing Ingredient in Chili Peppers Soothed by Ginger

  • Jessica Berman

A worker holds harvested chilies at a plantation in Pasir Datar Indah village near Sukabumi, Indonesia's West Java province, Aug. 6, 2015.

A worker holds harvested chilies at a plantation in Pasir Datar Indah village near Sukabumi, Indonesia's West Java province, Aug. 6, 2015.

It’s widely thought that ginger has health benefits — one of which may be to protect against an ingredient in chili peppers that has been linked to stomach cancer. Both ginger and chili peppers are commonly used in Asian cuisine.

Chili peppers get their kick from capsaicin, which some research suggests also has plenty of health benefits. But a diet rich in capsaicin has also been linked to stomach cancer.

Now, new research shows that one compound in ginger appears to offset the negative health effects of the chili pepper ingredient, and that used together, the two compounds might actually inhibit cancer growth.

Researchers at Pharmacy College of Henan University in China conducted a study with mice prone to lung cancer. Over the course of several weeks, they fed the mice either capsaicin or 6-gingerol or both.

All of the mice that only received capsaicin developed lung tumors, while half of the mice that received the ginger ingredient did. But only 20 percent of the rodents in the group given both ingredients developed lung cancer.

The Chinese researchers have found that the ginger compound, 6-gingergol, appears to counteract the negative effect of capsaicin by binding to the same cellular receptor that promotes tumor growth.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

So the next time you cook a spicy meal with chili peppers, it might be a good idea to add a bit of ginger to your dish.

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