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Capsaicin for Weight Loss

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Updated January 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Capsaicin, a natural substance sourced from chili peppers, is said to support weight loss. Proponents claim that the compound can help speed up metabolism and reduce fat tissue, as well as curb overeating by taming appetite. While scientists have yet to confirm that capsaicin can serve as a weight loss aid, some early studies suggest that this spicy chemical may be of some benefit to those trying to slim down.

The Science Behind Capsaicin and Weight Loss

Here's a look at several findings from studies on capsaicin and weight loss:

1) Capsaicin and Appetite

Upping your capsaicin intake may ease your appetite, according to a 2009 study from the journal Clinical Nutrition. In an experiment involving 27 healthy volunteers, researchers found that consuming a combination of capsaicin and green tea led subjects to feel less hungry and take in fewer calories.

Another 2009 study (published in the European Journal of Nutrition) found that capsaicin may help decrease ghrelin (a hormone involved in promoting hunger).

2) Capsaicin and Metabolism

A number of laboratory and animal studies show that capsaicin may help rev up thermogenesis (a biological process involved in burning calories). However, there is currently a lack of studies testing capsaicin's ability to boost metabolism in humans.

3) Capsaicin and Body Fat

Preliminary research indicates that capsaicin may help fight the buildup of body fat. In tests on rats fed a high-fat diet, the authors of a 2010 study from the Journal of Proteome Research found that capsaicin stimulated certain proteins known to break down fat and inhibited the actions of proteins involved in producing fat.

Is Capsaicin Safe for Weight Loss?

Although capsaicin is generally considered safe when consumed in foods, capsaicin supplements may cause some side effects (such as stomach irritation and aggravation of ulcers and heartburn). In addition, capsaicin supplements may interact with certain medications (including aspirin and blood-thinning drugs).

Should You Use Capsaicin for Weight Loss?

Due to the lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend capsaicin supplements for weight loss. However, increasing your capsaicin intake by eating chili peppers or chili-pepper-based sauces may be beneficial to your overall health (partly due to the compound's antioxidant effects). If you're considering the use of capsaicin supplements for weight loss, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources:

Galgani JE, Ravussin E. "Effect of dihydrocapsiate on resting metabolic rate in humans." Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1089-93.

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.

Reinbach HC, Smeets A, Martinussen T, Møller P, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. "Effects of capsaicin, green tea and CH-19 sweet pepper on appetite and energy intake in humans in negative and positive energy balance." Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;28(3):260-5.

Smeets AJ, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. "The acute effects of a lunch containing capsaicin on energy and substrate utilisation, hormones, and satiety." Eur J Nutr. 2009 Jun;48(4):229-34.

Westerterp-Plantenga M, Diepvens K, Joosen AM, Bérubé-Parent S, Tremblay A. "Metabolic effects of spices, teas, and caffeine." Physiol Behav. 2006 Aug 30;89(1):85-91.

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