Spicing up a daily diet with a sprinkling of chopped-up chilli peppers could help weight-watchers to curb their appetites.
Researchers from Purdue University, in Indiana, found that capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, can reduce hunger and increase energy expenditure.
Red hot: Capsaicin is particularly effective at curbing the appetite in those who don’t regularly eat chillis
‘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,’ said Professor Richard Mattes.
‘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.’
The study, published in Physiology & Behaviour, measured the effects of the spice in half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper – an amount most people could manage.
Other studies have looked at consuming capsaicin via a capsule, but the latest study demonstrated that actually tasting the red pepper may optimise its effects.
Professor Mattes said the sensory experience of eating a chilli 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.’
This study used ordinary dried, ground cayenne red pepper. Cayenne is a chili pepper, which is among the most commonly consumed spices in the world. Most, but not all, chili peppers contain capsaicin.
Twenty-five healthy weight people – 13 who liked spicy food and 12 who did not – participated in the six-week study.
The preferred level of pepper for each group was determined in advance, and those who did not like red pepper preferred 0.3g compared to regular spice users who preferred 1.8g.
In general, red pepper consumption did increase core body temperature and burn more calories through natural energy expenditure.
The study found that those who did not regularly eat chillis also experienced a decrease of hunger, especially for fatty, salty and sweet foods.
‘The appetite responses were different between those who liked red pepper and those who did not, suggesting that when the stimulus is unfamiliar it has a greater effect,’ the authors said.
‘Once it becomes familiar to people, it loses its efficacy.’
The authors said previous studies failed to account for individual differences in liking the burn of chili peppers, which could explain why their results varied on capsaicin’s impact on appetite suppression.

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