Bring on the Chili Peppers!

Posted by in Health Matters

chili pepperIf you like your food spicy, you have another reason to bring on the chili peppers. Researchers from the University of Wyoming found that capsaicin, the ingredient in chili peppers that makes them hot, can ramp up thermogenesis or heat production.

Mechanism for Weight Loss

In experiments done with mice, the researchers found that capsaicin can suppress weight gain from a high-fat diet. It did this by increasing calorie burn and metabolic activity. In addition, the endurance levels of mice fed dietary capsaicin also increased.

While the University of Wyoming study observed these effects in mice, a 2011 study by Purdue University found similar results in people. Participants consumed food that included 1g doses of red pepper. Like the mice, their core body temperature increased as a result of greater calorie burn and thermogenesis. Before you stock up on chili peppers, there is a caveat.

The Purdue University study also concluded that the effects are short-lived. Long-term consumption desensitized the body to the capsaicin’s effects. However, both studies suggest that it’s not just how much you eat, but what you eat that matters.

How Hot Is Hot?

Chili peppers vary, of course, in their heat intensity. It is measured by the Scoville Scale, developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. Now you have a way to quantify the heat. To put things in perspective, let’s look at some common chili peppers based on their Scoville Scale ratings.

Pepperoncini range from 100 to 900 Scoville units. Jalapenos rank higher at 1,000 to 4,000 units. Cayenne pepper, used in the Purdue study, falls between 30,000 to 50,000. The infamous ghost pepper sits at a sizzling 855,000 to 2,199,999 range. Think twice when your buddy challenges you to a ghost pepper eating contest.

A lot of evidence supports the fat-burning effects of capsaicin found in your favorite chili peppers. If that isn’t a good reason to whip up a bowl of a kickin’ hot chili, I don’t know what is. Chris DR

photo credit: Hot Pepper via photopin (license)