If you're not used to it, eating a diet with cayenne pepper might just help you burn calories and control your appetite. About a half teaspoon of red cayenne pepper (either in food or taken in capsule form) was found to help subjects of normal weight burn up around 10 additional calories over four hours in comparison to eating an identical meal without the pepper.
Cayenne is a chili pepper, and one of the most often consumed spices the world over. Most of these brightly colored veggies contain natural capsacin.
If you're not a spicy food eater, this pepper is also likely to cut your appetite. But the effect isn't the same if you eat the spice as part of your regular diet. What's even better, the amount of red pepper you need is likely to be acceptable to most people.
To conduct the research, the team recruited 25 young adults (average age 23) on a college campus with an average BMI of 22, in other words, not overweight. There were 13 eaters of spicy food among the subjects, while 12 ate a more bland diet. The participants took part in six study visits, every other week for the study period and were told to avoid caffeine, alcohol and strenuous exercise before coming in for their visit. They also fasted for the 12 hours before testing and were measured for resting energy rate, core temperatures of both body and skin as well as appetite.
Subjects were then randomly given a meal that either had (or didn't have) red pepper in it. The study used ordinary dried, ground cayenne red pepper. Sometime the pepper was in capsule form so the subjects didn't even taste it. The appetite of the subjects was measured using a questionnaire prior to the test meal and for every half hour afterward. At the end of the test meals (three including cayenne pepper and three meals without) the participants were allowed to eat whatever portion of the classic dish, macaroni and cheese that they felt like.
On average, the subjects who weren't used to spicy foods consumed about 66 less calories of the mac and cheese on the visits when they ate the red pepper meal; in comparison to the visits were they ate a non-peppered test meal. If you were a spicy food eater before the study, then you ate similar amounts of mac and cheese at the end of each of your visits.
The cayenne seems to cut the appetite for fatty, salty and sweet foods.
Researchers believe the cayenne pepper stimulates one of the major nerves found in the head and that carries down into the neck, known as the trigeminal nerve. Since the research found that the appetite response was different for those who liked the red peppers and those who didn't - it's possible that a stimulus that isn't a familiar one has more impact.
Taste appears to optimize the effects of the cayenne pepper.
That isn't to say that you should suffer through a diet with cayenne pepper if you truly dislike it. It also means that you can't live an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle, eating anything that crosses your path, take a few pepper capsules and drop weight. Serious, lasting weight loss doesn't work like that. Still, adding some red pepper into your already healthy diet might just help you keep your calorie intake under control. It's subtle to be sure, but it's also an easy thing to try for yourself.
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