If you’ve eaten spicy foods before, you more than likely have come across the heat effects of a compound called capsaicin, which creates a heat sensation on the tongue. This increases body temperature, which eventually leads to sweating and tearing. Capsaicin has several other effects on your body.
Spicy foods not only increase body temperature, but also might boost your metabolism. Scientists at Daegu University in Korea found that rats following a high-fat diet with capsaicin experienced more reductions in body fat than rats fed a high-fat diet without capsaicin. Researchers found that capsaicin increases the production of proteins inside fat cells that help break down fat, thereby reducing the size of fat cells. Furthermore, capsaicin significantly reduced the synthesis of new fat cells, according to research reported in the April 2010 issue of the “Journal of Proteome Research.” Further research on humans is necessary.
High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder to pump blood through your body and damages blood vessels that supply nutrients to your organs. Over time, this increases your risk for illness. Researchers at the Third Military Medical University in China discovered that capsaicin increases the production of nitric oxide, a gas molecule that lowers blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and improving blood flow. The findings were published in the August 2010 issue of “Cell Metabolism.”
Although capsaicin provides several benefits, it might also have adverse effects. Scientists at the University of Utah said capsaicin might act as a carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. They found significantly higher rates of stomach and liver cancer in certain ethnic-cultural groups, such as Mexican-Americans, which consume high amounts of capsaicin. Further research is needed. The findings were reported in the October 2002 issue of “Medical Hypotheses.”
Spicy foods might cause stomach upset, diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea and gas. If you experience any of these symptoms, reduce your intake of spicy foods.
- "Journal of Proteome Research"; "Proteomic Analysis for Antiobesity Potential of Capsaicin on White Adipose Tissue in Rats Fed with a High Fat Diet"; J.J. Joo et al.; April 2010
- "Cell Metabolism"; "Activation of TRPV1 by Dietary Capsaicin Improves Endothelium-Dependent Vasorelaxation and Prevents Hypertension"; D. Yang et al.; August 2010
- "Medical Hypotheses"; "Capsaicin Pepper, Cancer and Ethnicity"; V.E. Archer et al.; October 2002
- University of Maryland Medical Center; "Cayenne"; 2011