Chili Peppers for Weight Loss?
Not everyone likes spicy food, but many cultures have embraced the fiery heat of chilies. If you’re not a fan, but you’d like some help controlling your weight, you might want to reconsider. Emerging research suggests chilies do more than add heat to food. They may also help you lose body fat.
The sensation of heat comes from a natural substance in chilies called capsaicin. A few years ago, some scientists showed that capsaicin may be a natural fat fighter. The research demonstrated that obese rats lose weight when fed capsaicin, despite eating a high-fat diet. The fiery chemical evidently altered levels of at least 20 proteins in the animals’ fat cells. These proteins, in turn, encouraged the breakdown of body fat. Compared to obese rats that didn’t eat the chili ingredient, the test animals burned more calories and lost more body fat.
Last year, British researchers published a review of evidence regarding capsaicin’s potential as a weight management substance. They considered evidence from 20 clinical trials, involving more than 560 people. They identified three important ways that capsaicin may help people manage their weight, including boosting energy expenditure, boosting fat “burning,” and decreasing appetite.
On average, people who consumed capsaicin burned 50 more calories daily than people who ate a similar diet, minus capsaicin. That’s a fairly moderate effect, but within one to two years, it should result in “clinically significant levels of weight loss”. Furthermore, people who regularly consumed chilies experienced “significantly reduced abdominal adipose tissue levels and reduced appetite and energy intake.” While chilies are not a magic cure for obesity, investigators wrote, “they could play a beneficial role, as part of a weight management program.”
Joo JI, Kim DH, Choi JW, Yun JW. Proteomic analysis for antiobesity potential of capsaicin on white adipose tissue in rats fed with a high fat diet. J Proteome Res. 2010 Jun 4;9(6):2977-87. doi: 10.1021/pr901175w.
Whiting S, Derbyshire E, Tiwari BK. Capsaicinoids and capsinoids. A potential role for weight management? A systematic review of the evidence. Appetite. 2012 Oct;59(2):341-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.05.015. Epub 2012 May 22.