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Cayenne Pepper and Metabolism

By William Gamonski

Along with bell peppers and jalapenos, cayenne peppers are part of the Capsicum annuum vegetable family, and are used in both food and medicine. Research hints that cayenne peppers may have positive effects on the metabolism, or the rate by which calories are burned.


The active ingredient in cayenne pepper is the compound capsaicin, which is responsible for most of its benefits as well as its spiciness. Capsaicin has been used as an effective treatment for reducing pain and combating tumor growth, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center website. It also may help boost the metabolism and induce fat loss through several mechanisms.

Increases Thermogenesis

Capsaicin might have beneficial effects on thermogenesis, the process by which cells convert energy into heat. Yasser Mahmoud and colleagues from the Aarhus University in Denmark discovered that capsaicin consumption was associated with an increase in thermogenesis, which boosts body temperature and the metabolism, according to research reported in the August 2008 issue of the “Journal of Biological Chemistry.”

Increases Fat Breakdown and Decreases Fat Buildup

Capsaicin might raise the metabolism by positively affecting proteins that help break down fat, according to a study conducted by Jong Won Yun and researchers from Daegu University in South Korea. Scientists fed rats a high-fat diet with or without capsaicin for eight weeks. At the end of the study, which was published in the July 2010 issue of the "Journal of Proteome Research," subjects fed the high-fat diet with capsaicin experienced greater decreases in body fat compared to the non-capsaicin group. Researchers found that capsaicin enhanced the activity of proteins inside fat cells that help break down fat. In addition, capsaicin also reduced the activity of enzymes that are responsible for synthesizing fat, thereby preventing the development of mature fat cells.

Side Effects and Interactions

Although capsaicin can improve the metabolism, it can also cause a few side effects. Eating too much capsaicin can result in stomach irritation as well as stomach pain. In addition, capsaicin can possibly interact with certain medications, including stomach acid reducers and blood thinners, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center website. Consult your doctor before eating capsaicin-rich chili peppers.

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