BACKGROUND: Few animal experiments and volunteer-based intervention studies have showed a controversial effect of spicy foods on weight management; however, information is scant on the association between spicy food intake and obesity. This study aims to examine the impact of spicy food on quantitative adiposity measures in the Chinese population; a population with a low prevalence of general obesity, but a high prevalence of central obesity. METHODS: A total of 434,556 adults (255,094 females), aged 30-79 years, were included from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study. Information on spicy food intake was obtained using a questionnaire survey. Body mass index (BMI), percentage body fat (BF%), waist circumference (WC), and WC/height ratio (WHtR) were analyzed as continuous variables. RESULTS: The prevalence of daily spicy food eating was 30.4% in males and 30.0% in females, with dramatically geographic diversity (ranging from 99.4% in Hunan to 2.7% in Zhejiang). The covariates-adjusted BMI, BF%, WC, and WHtR significantly increased with increasing frequency, strength, and duration of spicy food eating regardless of gender (p < 0.001). Among regular spicy food consumers, strength of spicy food eating showed significant and positive association with all adiposity measures in both genders (except for BF% in males). Compared with non-consumers, daily spicy food eating was significantly associated with an increase of 0.44 and 0.51 of BMI (kg/m2), 0.79 and 1.01 of BF%, 1.4 and 1.0 of WC (cm), and 0.008 and 0.006 of WHtR in males and females, respectively. In stratified analyses of 18 consecutive BMI subgroups, a significantly increasing trend in the effect of daily spicy food eating on WC and WHtR with increasing BMI was noted in males; whereas a decreasing trend was seen in females. CONCLUSIONS: The data indicate that spicy food intake is a risk factor for obesity in Chinese adult population, especially for central obesity in males. Further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying this association.

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Journal article


BMC Public Health

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Adiposity, Adult, Aged, Body Mass Index, China, Diet, Female, Food Habits, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Obesity, Obesity, Abdominal, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Spices, Surveys and Questionnaires, Waist Circumference