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June 16, 2010 | 2 minute read

Hot Chili Health

In the lab, the compound that gives chili peppers their kick – called capsaicin — shows off a lot of health benefits. It fights cancer, and acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Today’s issue of Cancer Research Update features a study looking at another possible health boon for chili peppers: its fat fighting potential. This study found that animals eating a high-fat diet gained less weight with capsaicin than without. It also showed that capsaicin appeared to change 20 fat-related proteins in the body. You can read more about it in CRU.

A lot of studies looking into capsaicin’s anti-obesity effects stem from research showing that capsaicin is linked to increased thermogenesis. Basically, thermogenesis means heat production. Thermogenesis is important in regulating obesity. The idea is that increasing thermogenesis leads to food converted into energy (as heat) instead of fat.

There’s a lot of interesting animal studies on thermogenesis and capsaicin, and even human studies – see here – but right now, it’s too soon to douse your meals with chili peppers just for weight control, or even cancer protection. Peppers – of all varieties – do contain plenty of health benefits and certainly can spice up a meal. In general, the more capsaicin a pepper contains, the hotter it is.

For the daring, you can find out how your favorite chili pepper rates on the hotness scale here. (If you take too big a bite of a hot pepper, grab a cup of milk, not water: milk contains a protein called casein that neutralizes capsaicin’s effects.)

Have you ever tried one of the hot-hot chili peppers? Good or bad?

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