Healthy living * Weight loss

Eating chilli peppers may help curb appetite

Eating chilli peppers may help curb appetite Could play a part in fighting obesity

Adding a bit of spice to your daily diet by introducing some red-hot chilli may help to curb your appetite and lead to weight loss according to a new study.

But the effect may not last for long, as the more that people become used to the burning sensation of the spice, the less good it does.

Previous studies have found that capsaicin, the chemical in chilli that give it its heat, can reduce hunger and even increase energy usage. But the amounts that you need to eat to achieve this effect are much greater than most people are willing to eat at any one time.

So this new study, carried out by scientists at Purdue University, looked at the effect of quantities (half a teaspoon) that most people would be happy to eat every day.

About the study

Two groups of volunteers where chosen, the first being of 13 people who liked spicy food and the second 12 people who did not. Each of the participants was given the spice (as cayenne pepper) each day for a six week period.

Results showed that in general, red pepper consumption did increase core body temperature and burn more calories through natural energy expenditure. Those who did not consume red pepper regularly experienced a decrease of hunger, especially for fatty, salty and sweet foods.

Commenting on the results, study leader Richard Mattes said that "We found that consuming red pepper can help manage appetite and burn more calories after a meal, especially for individuals who do not consume the spice regularly."

But he cautioned that eating chilli was not a "magic bullet" for fighting obesity. "This finding should be considered a piece of the puzzle because the idea that one small change will reverse the obesity epidemic is simply not true. However, if a number of small changes are added together, they may be meaningful in terms of weight management. Dietary changes that don't require great effort to implement, like sprinkling red pepper on your meal, may be sustainable and beneficial in the long run, especially when paired with exercise and healthy eating" he said.

It also seems that the burning effect of the chilli powder is an important component of its health benefits. Mattes said the findings also show that red pepper should be consumed in non-capsule form because the taste - the sensory experience - maximises the digestive process.

"That burn in your mouth is responsible for that effect," he said. "It turns out you get a more robust effect if you include the sensory part because the burn contributes to a rise in body temperature, energy expenditure and appetite control."

The findings are published in the journal Physiology and Behavior.

This article was published on Tue 26 April 2011

Image © Elnur -

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