Chilli weight loss

According to the World Health Organisation around 33 per cent of the world’s population are overweight or obese. Perhaps it is all these people heading to the beach that is tilting the planet off its axis toward the sun causing climate change? That might be an exaggeration but the sheer size of that statistic, in all senses, is staggering and finding ways to keep fat off is not just a cosmetic indulgence but a public health necessity. There are all sorts of ways to avoid becoming overweight, you might consider eating less and exercising more, but a new study suggests that chilli might be able to help at the cellular level.

The benefits of chilli peppers in this case come down to capsaicin, a chemical which, when consumed, increases heart rate, induces sweating, increases the sensitivity of nerve endings, and stimulates the release of endorphins (sound familiar? No wonder chilli has a reputation as an aphrodisiac). In this study however, the researchers were looking at the effect of chilli on fat cells.

In your body white fat cells store energy while brown fat cells act as machinery to burn fat, meaning that brown fat cells have a “thermogenic” action. By feeding a high fat diet and capsaicin to mice the researchers were able to discover that capsaicin activates a receptor on white and brown fat cells called TRPV-1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid 1). When capsaicin represented 0.01 per cent of the total diet by its action on TRPV-1 it was able to stimulate thermogenesis and prevent weight gain even in the presence of a high fat diet.

No-one is suggesting that you should eat enough chilli to make capsaicin 0.01 per cent of your diet; that might make you lose weight but no-one would ever see you to know because, unless you had an iron-clad digestive tract, you’d be spending most of your time on the toilet lathered in sweat. Of course, the researcher behind this study is busily submitting a patent for a drug delivery system to allow the benefits of capsaicin to be felt without the heat of the chilli.

It is always and ever however, better to use your food as your medicine and your healing. This is true psychologically as well as physically. So while you might not be able to eat enough chilli to get the effects found in this study you can eat some and that will do some-thing. Large enterprises are made of small steps.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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