Spice up your life and lose weight with a little sprinkle of chili pepper. Researchers from the University of Wyoming unlocked a beneficial ingredient from chili peppers that could change the obesity epidemic, and presented their findings at the Biophysical Society’s Annual Meeting.

"Obesity is caused by an imbalance between calorie intake and energy dissipation," said the study’s co-author Vivek Krishnan, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming's School of Pharmacy research group Baskilab, in a press release. "In our bodies, white fat cells store energy and brown fat cells serve as thermogenic machinery to burn stored fat. Eating calorie-rich food and a lack of physical activity cause an imbalance in metabolism that leads to obesity.”

Most people understand that if they combine eating too much food with a sedentary lifestyle, they’ll end up gaining weight. Despite the facts, more than 78.6 million Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers have developed a way to stimulate metabolism without having to cut calories, thanks to chili peppers’ main ingredient capsaicin.

Researchers found just by adding the capsaicin from chili peppers into a mouse’s high-fat diet, it prevented weight gain. Not only did it prevent general weight gain, but the mouse was able to eat an unhealthy diet of high fatty foods. The mice in the study didn’t eat or drink more or less because of the capsaicin additive, just simply plateaued in weight gain.

"The main goal of our work is to expand the knowledge of the mechanism by which capsaicin antagonizes obesity, as well as to advance the proof of principle of the anti-obesity potential of dietary capsaicin," the Baskilab researchers said. The team found capsaicin only needed to make up 0.01 percent of the mice’s diet in order for the weight-gain blocking benefits to kick in, and it’s all because of a protein pathway called transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1).

They believe this happens because capsaicin turns the bad, unhealthy white fat into fat-burning brown fat through thermogenics, which is the process of creating heat from burning fat. When you exercise, brown fat naturally converts white fat into more brown fat, so researchers may have unlocked a natural edible ingredient that could mimic exercise’s weight maintenance benefits. Capsaicin also has the ability to turn on thermogenesis in the body, and researchers believe it could be the key to managing obesity.

"Next, we'll focus on our longer-term goal of developing TRPV1 agonists as new drug molecules to prevent and treat obesity,” researchers announced. “We envision a nanoparticle-based sustained-release formulation of capsaicin, which is currently under development in our laboratory. In turn, this will advance a novel dietary supplement-based approach to prevent and treat one of the life-threatening diseases, obesity and its associated complications — in humans."

Recipes With A Dash Of Anti-Obesity Capsaicin:

  1. Stuffed Roasted Bell Peppers: Cut the tops off of four bell peppers and core them. Add cooked brown rice sautéed with black beans, chopped onions, and chili peppers or powder. Spoon into bell peppers and cover with top. Place in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 45 minutes.
  2. Cucumber Chile Lime Taco Salad: Slice cucumbers into a bowl with chili powder, black peppers, freshly squeezed lime juice and toss. Cook in a separate pan sautéed lean ground turkey with diced onions and tomatoes, and a sprinkle of chili powder until turkey is thoroughly browned. Drain meat juices and lay cucumber mix over turkey meat to serve.
  3. Grilled Shrimp Linguine with Chili Sauce: Cook linguine or angel hair pasta al dente and set aside. Grill peeled and deveined shrimp in a sauce pan with black pepper and paprika and add pasta portion to the pan. In a mixing bowl blend 2 parts sour cream, 1 part mayo, freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili sauce, and 1 teaspoon of chili powder. Toss sauce over pasta and let cook together for 5 to 8 minutes.
Chili Pepper List
Chili pepper breakdown. Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Sources: Krishnan V and Thyagarajan B. At The Biophysical Society's 59th Annual Meeting. 2015.