Clinical Studies and Practice

Chilli consumption and the incidence of overweight and obesity in a Chinese adult population



The frequency of spicy food intake has recently been associated with a reduced risk of mortality in the Chinese population. This study aimed to prospectively examine the association between chilli intake and the incidence of overweight/obesity in a Chinese adult population.


Adults aged 20–75 years in the China Health and Nutrition Survey were followed between 1991 and 2011. Dietary data were collected during home visits using a 3-day food record in 1991, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2011. Cox regression was used in the analysis. Overweight/obesity was defined as body mass index 25 kg m2.


A total 12 970 adults were followed for a median of 9 years. During 126 884 person-years of follow-up, 3203 subjects developed overweight/obesity. The absolute incidence rate of overweight/obesity was 26.4, 22.3, 24.4 and 20.5 per 1000 person-years among those who consumed no chilli or 1–20, 20.1–50, 50.1 g per day, respectively. Chilli consumption was therefore inversely associated with the incidence of overweight/obesity. After adjusting for age, gender, energy and fat intake, smoking, alcohol drinking and physical activity, those whose cumulative average chilli intake was 0, 1–20, 20.1–50 and 50.1 g per day had a hazard ratio for overweight/obesity of 1.00, 0.81 (95% confidence interval=0.73–0.89), 0.77 (0.69–0.86) and 0.73 (0.63–0.84); P for trend <0.001, respectively. There was no interaction between chilli intake and gender, income, education and residence (urban/rural) in relation to the risk of overweight/obesity.


Chilli intake is inversely associated with the risk of becoming overweight/obese in Chinese adults.

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This research uses data from China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS). We thank the National Institute for Nutrition and Health, China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Carolina Population Center (P2C HD050924, T32 HD007168), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the NIH (R01-HD30880, DK056350, R24 HD050924 and R01-HD38700) and the NIH Fogarty International Center (D43 TW009077, D43 TW007709) for financial support, for the CHNS data collection and analysis files from 1989 to 2015 and future surveys, and the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Ministry of Health for support for CHNS 2009, Chinese National Human Genome Center at Shanghai since 2009 and Beijing Municipal Center for Disease Prevention and Control since 2011.

Author contributions

ZS contributed to the conception, analysis and interpretation of data; drafting of the report; and have given approval of the final version for publication. AWT, MR and AP contributed to the analysis and interpretation of the data, commented on the report, revising the manuscript and approving the final version for publication.

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Correspondence to Z Shi.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on International Journal of Obesity website

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Shi, Z., Riley, M., Taylor, A. et al. Chilli consumption and the incidence of overweight and obesity in a Chinese adult population. Int J Obes 41, 1074–1079 (2017).

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