Cayenne pepper is a hot chili pepper in the capsicum family. This type of chili originated in South and Central America and is named after a city in the region of French Guiana. In recent years, it is widely cultivated in the tropical and subtropical regions including India, Mexico, East Africa and the USA. It is popularly used to spice up a dish, particularly in American, Mexican, Asian, Cajun and Creole cooking.
Native Americans have been using cayenne pepper for cooking and medicinal purposes for at least 9,000 years. It is rich in vitamin B6, C and E and it also contains manganese, potassium and flavonoids. Moreover, it contains an active ingredient called capsaicin which is responsible for its spiciness as well as its many health benefits.
How does cayenne pepper help with weight loss?
Cayenne pepper is considered one of the most powerful natural ingredients for weight loss due to the presence of capsaicin. This phytochemical binds itself to the neuroreceptors that induce calcium influx. As a result, this triggers different cellular responses such as decreasing the proinflammatory protein expression and increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes. These cellular responses in turn help increase your metabolic rate as well as flush out toxins, among other health benefits.
Theoretically, capsaicin can help you shed excess weight in different ways:
- Increases fat oxidation – This is when the body burns carbs or fat for energy. It will only make a difference in your overall physique if your fat oxidation increases while your body is calorie deficit.
- Increases metabolic rate – Capsaicin also boosts your metabolic rate. In particular, it helps the body produce more heat for burning calories in a process called thermogenesis.
- Suppresses appetite – Red peppers including cayenne pepper are known to suppress your food appetite.
Does cayenne pepper actually help you lose weight?
Various studies have proven that cayenne pepper can help you lose weight in the following ways:
By increasing fat oxidation.
A 2007 study showed that consuming 150mg of capsaicin one hour before a workout will increase fat oxidation by about 40%. Other studies (1) (2) (3) also show that even lower doses of capsaicin can increase the body’s ability to burn fat by around 10 percent for the next 24 hours.
By increasing your metabolic rate.
The capsaicin in cayenne peppers are thought to be effective in increasing your metabolic rate through a process called “diet-induced thermogenesis.” This process allows the body to produce more heat which in turn helps you burn more calories per day.
In a Thai study with 10 healthy women as participants, it found out that 5 grams of fresh chilli peppers can increase the level of calories burned by about 5 calories. Another study supports this. The participants were asked to eat breakfast with capsaicin along with tri-saturated fatty acids. The participants were able to burn 51 percent more calories in that meal than those who did not consume capsaicin. That 51 percent may sound like a huge increase but in reality, it is burning calories from 7 percent to 10.7 percent.
It is important to note that not all studies agree to the huge impact of capsaicin in burning calories. Many studies estimate the increase in metabolic rate at only 5 to 10 extra calories.
By suppressing your appetite.
Cayenne peppers also suppress your appetite, making your feel fuller longer. This is believed to be due to the presence of capsaicin. How it does it is not yet fully understood but in one study, it shows that capsaicin reduces the production of ghrelin, a hunger hormone.
In a widely cited study from The British Journal of Nutrition, it showed that consuming 10 grams of red pepper reduces the appetite of the participants and also leads them to choose carbohydrate-rich food instead of fat-rich food. This in turn lowered their calorie intake.
Other health benefits of cayenne pepper supplements
May help lower blood pressure.
One study in mice showed that long-term consumption of spices that contain capsaicin helps reduce blood pressure. In another study, it showed that capsaicin helps relax the blood vessels in pigs which in turn leads to lower blood pressure.
It is important to note though that these studies were conducted on animals and not humans.
Promotes digestive health.
Cayenne pepper also boosts the stomach’s defenses against infections, as well as increases the production of digestive fluid to aid in digestion.
Works as a pain reliever.
A number of topical pain relievers contain capsaicin as it has a potent pain-relieving property when applied to the skin. Capsaicin helps reduce the production of substance P, a neuropeptide that signals pain.
Helps improve the symptoms of psoriasis.
There is no cure for psoriasis but capsaicin creams can help remove some of its symptoms including itching. A study also found out that it can help improve the appearance of the affected areas.
May help reduce your risk of cancer.
Consistently adding cayenne pepper in your diet may also reduce your risk of cancer. A study showed that the capsaicin in cayenne peppers attacks the different pathways in the growth process of cancer cells.
There is no standard dosage for cayenne peppers if you want to add this to your regular diet. You can add the powdered form to spice up a dish or add in your smoothie or drink. However, some cayenne pepper supplements may have a recommended dosage, so it’s ideal to always check the label before using.
Cayenne peppers are generally safe to consume. However, eating too much in one sitting may give you a stomachache.
Moreover, if you have the following conditions, it’s important to take special precautions by consulting your doctor before taking cayenne pepper as a supplement:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Blood-clotting medication
- Scheduled surgery
- Taking medication for high blood pressure
- Taking theophylline
Cayenne peppers is worth trying as it helps not just with weight loss but it also offers a wide range of health benefits with minimal side effects.