Spicy-food lovers take note: The same process that leads to beads of sweat forming when biting into a chili pepper may actually increase energy expenditure, if the findings from a preliminary (and small) study hold up.
Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Human Nutrition presented their findings at the ongoing Experimental Biology conference.
The stuff that gives chili peppers that searing heat-inducing zing is called capsaicin. (It sets off the pain receptors on our tongue.) In the lab, capsaicin has shown cancer preventive properties; you can read about the research here, and find out how to squash that burning sensation if it’s too hot.
The UCLA scientists studied the non-burning version of capsaicin, called DCT for short. Thirty-four participants drank a low-calorie liquid meal replacement for 28 days. The participants were divided into groups: one group took a DCT supplement after the meal – either a low or high dose – another group took a placebo.
Researchers determined energy expenditure (heat production) in each subject after he or she consumed one serving of the test meal. They found that at least for several hours after the test meal was eaten, energy expenditure was significantly increased in the group consuming the highest amount of DCT. The energy expended was almost double that of the placebo group, suggesting it may help dieters by increasing metabolism.
There are plenty of caveats to this study – e.g, it’s small, limited to a single meal – but it does buoy the evidence, once again, that there is a lot of hidden health benefits inside plant foods. That supports AICR’s recommendation to eat plenty of a variety of fruits and vegetables: it will add flavor, healthful compounds, and maybe even help with weight loss.
Do you love chili peppers, hate them, or a little of both? Have a good chili pepper story?