If you’ve ever bitten into a chili pepper, you know the zing that quickly follows. This is due to an active component known as capsaicin. It’s considered to be an irritant to mammals, causing burning when it comes into contact with any tissue.
Capsaicin is naturally found in peppers and the hotter a pepper is, the more capsaicin it contains. It’s commonly used to treat minor aches and pains. This is due to the way in which capsaicin reduces a natural substance that helps pass on the signal of pain to the brain. Over the past few years, this compound has gained attention regarding its ability to help users lose weight.
Background on Capsaicin
This compound was first extracted in 1816 in its impure form. It wasn’t until 1876 that capsaicin was extracted in its almost pure form and names accordingly. By 1898, Karl Micko isolated capsaicin in its pure form and it’s chemical composition was determined in 1919. By 1930, capsaicin had been synthesized.
Various hot peppers are eaten all over the world, offering a range of benefits. Cayenne, a pepper that’s native to Central and South America has been used for decades in order to treat conditions such as pain, diabetes, and osteoarthritis.
Peppers such as habanero, cayenne, and jalapeno are considered to be negative calories foods. This is due to the ways in which they increase metabolism and burn calories. In fact, they allow you to burn more calories than you are consuming.
In one study, it was found that eating a spicy meal packed with capsaicin was able to boost metabolism rates by up to 25 percent. This spike in calorie burning lasted for up to three hours after the meal was finished. Capsaicin has now been linked to a reduction in blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels, while aiding in symptoms of diabetes, strengthening the immune system, and offering weight-loss support.
Mechanism of Action
The burning sensation associated with capsaicin is due to the chemical interaction it has with sensory neurons. As a member of the vanilloid family, capsaicin binds to the receptor known as vanilloid receptor subtype 1.
This deters mammals from eating hot chili peppers, however, there are birds that lack the right receptors and will happily eat them. Of course, we’re mammals so we experience the effects of capsaicin. This compound causes our bodies to release painkilling endorphins.
Weight Loss and Capsaicin
The concept that capsaicin aids in weight-loss ins nothing new. By eating capsaicin, you boost thermogenesis. This is simply the rate at which your body burns fat. Although this is the case, researchers in Korea have uncovered a deeper understanding between this capsaicin-fat connection.
In their study, they divided rats into three groups. One group received a normal diet, the next consumed a high-fat diet supplemented with capsaicin, and the third simply ate a high-fat diet without being supplemented with capsaicin. After two months, the rats were evaluated.
This study caused all three groups of rats to gain weight, however, the rats had been given capsaicin gained eight percent less than the rats who did not consume capsaicin. In fact, these rats gained barely any more weight in comparison to the rats on a normal diet, even though they were consuming a high-fat diet.
The researchers found that capsaicin reduced the effects of dietary fat, buffering the fat based on regulating genes. It was concluded that capsaicin has significant inhibitory effects on fat accumulation. In one 2012 study, rats were fed a high-fat diet. When given capsaicin, it was found that this compound stimulated proteins that broke down fat and inhibited proteins that support fat production.
Metabolism plays a key role in weight and fat loss and capsaicin has been shown to increase one’s metabolic rate. A number of lab and animal studies have supported this idea, as increased thermogenesis has been reported. This is simply the process of burning calories.
In order to reduce calorie intake, appetite also has its role in weight-loss. Capsaicin has been shown to reduce your appetite. In an experiment involving 27 volunteers, it was found that when combining capsaicin and green tea, subjects not only felt less hungry but ate fewer calories. In a 2009 study, researchers reported that capsaicin may help decrease ghrelin, the hormone that promotes hunger.
Other Benefits of Capsaicin
Although boosting metabolism and burning fat is generally capsaicin’s main appeal, it’s also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels while supporting heart health. Positive effects have also been experienced when trying to balance blood sugar, benefiting diabetics.
Based on its ability to balance blood sugar, less insulin is needed after a meal. If you personally have diabetes, don’t change your insulin dose until you have spoken to your doctor. In addition, capsaicin may offer anti-inflammatory effects and reduce the spread of certain types of cancer.
Potential Side Effects of Capsaicin
Although capsaicin is generally considered to be safe when consumed in food, it can create some side effects when consumed in supplement form. Although rare, some individuals experience symptoms such as ulcers, heartburn, and stomach pain.
It’s possible that capsaicin could interact with certain medications, such as aspirin and other blood-thinning drugs. If you are pregnant or nursing, please refrain from taking this supplement. If you have any further questions or concerns, please speak with your doctor.