Chillis may help burn calories

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 29th April 2010

Cubanelle chilli peppersNew research from the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA suggests that chillis may help burn calories.

The ingredient in chillis which gives the spicy taste – capsaicin – also causes an increase in body temperature.  Because a higher body temperature requires the body to burn more calories, researchers hypothesised that eating chillis might assist with weight loss.

Rather than use the spicy capsaicin, researchers tested a milder-tasting dihydrocapsiate or DCT.  34 participants, all attempting to lose weight, were put on a low-calorie liquid diet for 28 days.  At the end of this period, volunteers were given either a high-dose DCT pill, low-dose DCT pill or a placebo to take with a meal.

When energy expenditure was measured after eating the test meal, the participants taking the high-dose DCT pills were burning almost twice as much energy as the ones taking the placebo.  The researchers also found that the DCT significantly increased fat oxidation, encouraging the body to burn the fat it already has.

Professer David Heber, on presenting the results of the study at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting in California, pointed out that the study has limitations.  Only one meal was tested for energy expenditure, and the effects of capsaicin and DCT may vary in thin people versus obese or overweight calorie-counters.

While DCT may not be ready to appear on the shelves as a weight-loss supplement, the take home message: if you’re dieting, don’t be afraid to pile on the chilli powder.