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Heat up to slim down: the role of red hot peppers in weight management.

The global obesity epidemic has received so much press in recent years that the statistics are now all-too familiar. Worldwide, 400 million adults are obese, whereas another 1.6 billion are overweight. (1) Americans are notoriously large, with one third of the population officially being defined as obese and another third being overweight. (2) Even countries long associated with thinness are seeing the waistlines of their citizenry expand. During the last 10 years, for example, the percentage of overweight Chinese women has doubled, while the percentage of overweight Chinese men has nearly quadrupled. (3) At its core, weight loss is a simple proposition: energy expended, in the form of calories burned, must surpass energy ingested, in the form of food. However, as any dieter can attest, reversing a positive energy balance is easier said than done, especially as the metabolic rate decreases as calorie intake declines. Additionally, new research is showing that exercise alone does little to promote weight loss; it increases appetite and therefore causes a subsequent increase in calorie consumption. (4) Clearly, a new strategy for weight management is needed, and numerous studies suggest that it could lie in a food that has been a dietary staple for hundreds of years: capsicum or red hot peppers.


For decades, scientists have known about the weight-loss potential of capsaicinoids, the compounds responsible for the "heat" found in hot peppers. During the past 30 years, studies conducted on capsicum and capsicum extracts, in both animal and human subjects, have clearly demonstrated the effects and mechanisms of action of capsaicinoids. Specifically, these constituents have been shown to increase diet-induced thermogenesis, reduce appetite and beneficially affect body composition.

Increased Diet-Induced Thermogenesis

When human subjects are purposefully overfed in a laboratory setting, some of them gain large amounts of weight, whereas others manage to burn most of the excess calories. Why? The answer may be found in varying rates of diet-induced thermogenesis, a process whereby excess calories are converted to heat rather than stored as fat. Along with basal metabolic rate and activity-induced thermogenesis, diet-induced thermogenesis is one of three factors that contribute to a person's daily energy expenditure. Increasing diet-induced thermogenesis may therefore help to combat obesity. Scientists assess whether a substance is thermogenic by monitoring changes in energy expenditure following its ingestion. In a series of human studies conducted at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and Laval University, Canada, energy expenditure increased significantly after subjects ate a meal containing capsicum. (5-7)

Reduced Appetite

One of the main reasons that diets fail is hunger. Therefore, appetite control is a key consideration when developing effective diet plans. Several studies have found that the addition of capsaicinoids to the diet causes a reduction in ad libitum energy intake during subsequent meals; in other words, eating capsicum at breakfast causes a person to eat fewer calories at lunch. A dramatic example of hot pepper's appetite-suppressing capability is illustrated in a 2001 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. (5) When subjects ate 22 grammes of hot pepper, providing 66 mg of capsaicinoids, plus 800 mg of caffeine, during a 24-hour period, they had a negative energy balance of 956 kilocalories compared with the placebo group.

Body Composition Benefits

A person's body composition is determined by the ratio of body fat to lean body tissues. Excess body fat, particularly visceral fat, which accumulates around the internal organs, increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Research has shown that capsaicinoids stimulate a chain of physiological events that aid lipolysis (the breakdown of fat), which can be expected to positively affect body composition. (8), (9) Indeed, animal and human studies have shown that capsaicinoid ingestion causes a reduction in the percentage of body fat. In a study published in 2003 in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, supplements containing capsaicin, green tea extract and chicken essence caused about a one-pound loss in body fat during a 2-week period compared with a placebo. (10)

New Developments in Capsicum Technology

Although research supporting the use of capsaicinoids as an effective tool in weight management is substantial, the problem thus far has been compliance. Consuming therapeutic levels of hot peppers--at least 10 grammes per day--can cause oral and gastric irritation; therefore, compliance with capsicum-based diet management programmes has so far been poor. OmniActive Health Technologies has developed a patent-pending encapsulated form of premium, highly concentrated natural capsicum extract. Using a proprietary matrix of excipients and coatings, Capsimax capsicum extract gives users the maximum effectiveness of capsaicinoids without any oral or gastric irritation, thus solving the problem of capsicum compliance.



(1.) World Health Organization, "Obesity and Overweight. Fact Sheet No. 311," (September 2006).

(2.) CDC/National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Overweight Prevalence," (2 April 2009).

(3.) M.J. Penn, Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Twelve Books, Hatchett Book Group, New York, New York, USA, 2007).

(4.) J. Cloud, "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin,",8599,1914857,00.html (9 August 2009).

(5.) M. Yoshioka, et al., "Combined Effects of Red Pepper and Caffeine Consumption on 24h Energy Balance in Subjects Given Free Access to Foods," Br. J. Nutr. 85, 203-211 (2001).

(6.) M. Yoshioka, et al., "Effects of Red-Pepper Diet on the Energy Metabolism of Men," J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. 41, 647-656 (1995).

(7.) M. Yoshioka, et al., "Effects of Red Pepper Added to High-Fat and High-Carbohydrate Meals on Energy Metabolism and Substrate Utilization in Japanese Women," Br. J. Nutr. 80, 503-510 (1998).

(8.) T. Kawada, et al., "Capsaicin Induced Beta-Adrenergic Action on Energy Metabolism in Rats: Influence of Capsaicin on Oxygen Consumption, the Respiratory Quotient and Substrate Utilization," Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 183, 250-256 (1986).

(9.) T. Kawada, et al., "Intake of Sweeteners and Pungent Ingredients Increases the Thermogenin Content in Brown Adipose Tissue of Rats," J. Agric. Food Chem. 29, 651-654 (1991).

(10.) D. Tsi, et al., "Clinical Study on the Combined Effect of Capsaicin, Green Tea Extract and Essence of Chicken on Body Fat Content in Human Subjects," J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. (Tokyo) 49, 437-441 (2003)

For more information

Abhijit Bhattacharya

Chief Operating Officer

OmniActive Health Technologies, Ltd
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Title Annotation:weight management
Publication:Nutraceutical Business & Technology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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