The Goodness, It Burns
A massive ten-year study of over 487,000 Chinese adults conducted by Harvard, Oxford and Peking University researchers indicates that eating one or two spicy meals per week reduces one's risk of death from any cause by ten percent compared to those who eat spicy foods less frequently. And the more spicy meals eaten, the greater the benefit; consuming spicy foods six or seven times a week lowers the death rate by another 14 percent. The death risk is lower still for spicy food eaters who drink little or no alcohol. Scientists attribute the benefit, which men and women experience equally, to capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers and in many spicy foods, which is known to reduce unhealthy inflammation and may also neutralize harmful bacteria in the gut.
Apple or Tingle?
Aiming to save you time in the morning, Colgate-Palmolive has applied for a patent for technology that allows chemicals to slowly release during brushing. The chemical patches will be embedded into the heads of innocent-looking standard toothbrushes. However, these new toothbrushes can do lots of stuff: give you a little dose of caffeine, soothe baby's gums, flavor up your mouth with apple or lemon, deliver painkillers, offer a warming tingle from capsaicin (found in chile peppers), or give you a cooling sensation. The patches are designed to slowly release chemicals for up to three months. And don't worry: There will be some type of visual representation for the chemical so you don't get an apple taste when you really wanted a warming tingle!
When Pain Relief Hurts
Safety surveillance conducted by the Food and Drug Administration found 43 cases of burns resulting from over-the-counter joint and muscle pain relieving topical creams, ointments, lotions and patches from 1996 to 2011. Most contained the active ingredients menthol and methyl salicylate at concentrations over 3 and 10 percent, respectively and some of the cases involved capsaicin. Consumers know these products as Bengay, Capzasin, Flexall, Icy Hot and Mentholatum. In many cases, it only took one application to cause burning or blistering within a day. Burns ranged from mild to severe enough to require hospitalization. To reduce the risk of burn the FDA says to not apply topicals to damaged skin, place a bandage over it, use heating pads and discontinue if signs of irritation occur.
Burn Body Fat
An extract made from chili peppers will soon be added to a range of UK foods intended to support weight loss. The ingredient, called dihydrocapsiate (DHC), is currently sold in the US and Japan in the form of a dietary supplement, but this is the first time it will be used as a food additive. Tokyo-based food company Ajinomoto will add the ingredient, which will be made synthetically as chili peppers only produce a small amount, to foods including desserts, confectionery, cereals, and drinks. The product has been approved as safe by Britain’s Food Standards Agency and studies indicate that DHC can increase the burning of body fat and overall calorie expenditure. The European Commission has the final say on whether DHC can be added to foods, but usually follows the lead of the FSA.
May Encourage Tumor Promotion
Researchers have shown that capsaicin, an ingredient in chili peppers, may increase the risk of skin cancer. It is used in topic creams for pain relief and previous studies have shown that it induces cancer cells to undergo apoptosis, or cell death. This study shows it may act as carcinogen at a specific stage in tumor development called promotion, mediated through the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). One hypothesis is that is may increase inflammation and increased cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) levels after treatment with capsaicin support this. These results are very troublesome to researchers and lead researcher Ann Bode said “. . .the results raise concerns that a natural compound found in hot peppers used in over-the-counter topical pain remedies might increase skin cancer risk."
Capsaicin Ingredient Kicks Fat
Capsaicin, the stuff in chili pepper that makes it spicy, can also enable weight loss and fight fat buildup, say researchers writing in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Proteome Research. According to the new study, capsaicin works against fat by triggering beneficial protein changes inside your body. Lab rats fed capsaicin lost 8 percent of their body weight. The rats also experienced changes in about 20 key proteins found in fat. The finding could lead to new treatments for obesity. Yet, researchers aren't sure how capsaicin triggers weight loss. Studies done in laboratories have shown that capsaicin may possibly work by decreasing calories taken in, shrinking fat and lowering fat levels in the blood.
Spice Up Your Food
If you enjoy spicy food with lots of hot peppers and chillies, now there's even more of a reason to like them. The burning, heat sensation you experience when eating a hot pepper is caused by the substance capsaicin. There has been a growing amount of evidence that capsaicin may help to burn that extra bit of fat when you're exercising. For those who can't handle chillies, look out for the non-spicy versions of peppers containing dihydrocapsiate (DCT). David Hever, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, recently revealed convincing evidence that DCT significantly increased fat oxidation. So for your next meal, why not add some more peppers?