Red chilli peppers keep hunger pangs at bay
Researchers from Purdue University in Indiana found that capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, can reduce hunger and increase energy expenditure.
And it can help dieters in losing weight, especially when paired with exercise and healthy eating, they said.
"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," Professor Richard Mattes, who led the study, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
"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 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."
For the study, the researchers used ordinary dried, ground cayenne red pepper — one of 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 18g preferred by the spice users.
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 findings were published in the journal Physiology & Behaviour.