Joe and Teresa Graedon

Q: A recent story on the health benefits of hot peppers got me excited. I love chile peppers and spicy foods and have been eating them since I was a young girl. I’m 76 now and still a “chile head.” The family joke is that I got my first “fix” via mother’s milk, as an infant in Texas. Yes, my long-lived mom loved spicy foods, too.

I’m wondering if dried chile powder is as helpful to health as fresh chiles? I use both in my diet. A good fresh salsa always has a place on my table, but I also make enchilada and mole sauces using ground dried chile.

Answer: When scientists study chile peppers, they usually focus on capsaicin. That’s the hot stuff in hot peppers, and it differentiates them from bell peppers. Dried peppers maintain their capsaicin content.

A study of Italians found that people who eat chile peppers more than four times a week live longer than those who don’t (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dec. 24, 2019).

Pepper lovers can rejoice about that.

Capsaicin is not the only interesting compound in chile peppers. They are also rich in vitamin A and vitamin C and are a good source of quercetin, luteolin and other flavonoids.

Q: I suffered for seven years from really bad nighttime leg cramps. The numerous doctors I saw told me everything from “I don’t know” to “you’re getting old.”

Then my gynecologist told me a calcium deficiency could cause cramps and prescribed an over-the-counter calcium supplement. He said it would probably take about a week to notice relief. He was right! I still take calcium supplements after 30 years and have no trouble with leg cramps.

Answer: We have heard from hundreds of leg cramp sufferers about their remedies. Some people, like you, report success with such mineral supplements as calcium, magnesium or iron. Others get no relief.

There is a wide range of remedies that people have found successful. What works for one person may not work for somebody else.

Most people report, however, that swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard is surprisingly effective. Others insist that a sip of pickle juice works just as well. Trial and error seems to be the best way to learn what helps most.

Q: My doctor prescribed 50,000 units of vitamin D daily because my labwork showed low vitamin D levels. I have developed pain in my right arm and shoulder so severe that I can’t put on a long-sleeved top without help. Also, I have severely restless legs every night, plus terrible insomnia. I am going to stop the vitamin D to see if that is causing all my problems.

Answer: The dose of vitamin D you are taking is very high. You should definitely check back with your doctor and schedule another blood test as soon as that is feasible.

Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means that it is stored in the body. As a result, a high dose over time could lead to an excessive level. Symptoms could include muscle pain and weakness. Loss of appetite, digestive upset and fatigue have also been reported.

You can learn more about interpreting lab results, the pros and cons of various vitamin D formulations and the hazards of too much of this supplement in our eGuide to Vitamin D for Optimal Health. You will find it in the Health eGuides section at

King Features Syndicate

Questions for Joe and Teresa Graedon can be emailed via their website:

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