Chili peppers, which come from the Capsicum genus of plants, are used around the world as food, spices and cosmetics. They have been a part of the human diet since approximately 7500 BC and were one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas.

Anyone who has eaten a hot chili pepper knows that these fruits cause an immediate reaction! They create a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, along with a flushing of the face and neck and even sweating. But, interestingly, many people enjoy this experience, particularly after they’ve eaten chili peppers several times. Perhaps they feel invigorated and refreshed by the sensory experience!

 

What makes chili peppers hot?
Capsaicin is the pungent component found in chili peppers that creates the feelings of burning and heat that occur after eating even tiny bites of the pepper. Because of these symptoms that follow ingestion, only very small amounts of dietary capsaicin can be tolerated at one time.

Do components in chili peppers increase fat burning?
Anecdotally, it has been commonly accepted that chili peppers increase fat burning, or “thermogenesis,” in people, and that they also are followed by a feeling of refreshment. And research supports the notion that adding chili peppers to the diet will make people burn more fat than they otherwise would. But because of the sensory experiences that follow eating these peppers, making them part of every meal probably is not a very practical way of managing weight for most individuals!

What are capsinoids, and how are they different from capsaicin?
Capsinoids are a family of compounds that also are found in chili peppers, but typically at a much lower level than capsaicin. They are very similar in structure to capsaicin, but different enough that they are virtually non-pungent.

According to the studies conducted so far, capsinoids are not absorbed into the circulation. In a study in which healthy adults took a single dose of capsinoids by mouth, blood pressure and heart rate did not increase. On the other hand, studies do indicate that capsinoids can have an effect on fat burning like that of capsaicin.

Some varieties of sweet chili pepper have been bred to produce a much higher level of capsinoids, with very low levels of capsaicin. Scientific articles by researchers at Kyoto University note that these peppers may offer the benefits associated with chili peppers and capsaicin, but without the pungency.

Do we know why capsinoids may help in weight management?
The mechanisms that control body weight and fat burning are very complex. Although the basic equation for maintaining weight is “calories in equals calories burned,” the body does seem to have a tendency to make involuntary adjustments in energy expenditure after food intake (i.e., calories) is reduced that make the weight loss equation less straight forward than it seems it should be. For some dieters, this phenomenon seems to be a source of frustration. Some, however, have speculated that capsinoids may help neutralize the body’s reduction in energy expenditure that often follows dieting.

Has the safety of capsinoids been studied?
Extracts of CH-19 Sweet, the high-capsinoid sweet chili pepper, have been extensively studied to determine their safety for people. Studies have been conducted in the laboratory, in animals and in people themselves, and they have confirmed that capsinoids have a very favorable safety profile.

What does it mean for me?
Studies on capsinoids and CH-19 Sweet, the sweet chili pepper, indicate that they may be promising potential candidates for dietary supplements and ingredients.