People who eat hot chili peppers live longer than people who don’t. That’s the conclusion of researchers at the University of Vermont, who studied data from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years. Science Daily reports that the researchers found that consumers of hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats. They also had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. Despite some less than healthful habits, chili pepper eaters enjoyed a 13 percent reduction in total mortality — primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke. Why? The researchers suggest that capsaicin plays a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, and also has antimicrobial properties that may affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.