Can Chili Peppers Help You Lose Weight?

Chili peppers, which were once believed to be a cause of stomach ulcers, are in fact beneficial to your health. Studies conducted in countries such as Brazil and Thailand, where chili peppers are used in many dishes, revealed that there is no greater occurrence of stomach ulcers related to consumption of hot peppers. Chilies and other spices are now regarded as foods that can be successfully used in order to get rid of the extra pounds, as they accelerate metabolism and allow your body to burn fat at a higher rate.

Chili Peppers as Metabolism Boosters

Most spices contain chemical compounds that are able to boost the metabolism. In the case of chili peppers, that compound is called capsaicin. According to some studies, the metabolic rate increases by 23 percent shortly after consuming a tablespoon of chopped green or red chilies. Apparently, this effect is only temporary and can be observed for about 30 minutes. However, if you consume chili peppers and spicy food on a regular basis, the effect can be prolonged.

When capsaicin interacts with the neurotransmitters, it makes the brain think the body is in pain. As a consequence, the following reactions are observed:

  • Heat sensation
  • Redness
  • Sweating

Cells turn energy into heat through a process called thermogenesis. Capsaicin leads to this process by modulating the function of a muscle protein called SERCA (Sarcoplasmic/Endoplasmic Reticulum Calcium Atpase). When muscles contract, calcium ions are set free from the SR (sarcoplasmic reticulum). By using ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) energy, the aforementioned protein forces the calcium ions to return to the sarcoplasmic reticulum.

At this point, the muscle relaxes and is able to start a new cycle. Capsaicin breaks the cycle by binding to SERCA and preventing the calcium ions to return into SR. The protein continues to use ATP energy, but it no longer pumps calcium into the muscle. This way, the ATP energy is converted to heat.

Thermogenesis and Weight Loss

The way capsaicin influences thermogenesis could be primarily used for treating hypothermia, but weight loss is yet another possible task that can be achieved with this chemical compound. Instead of using weight loss dietary supplements that cause thermogenesis, people who want to get rid of the extra pounds can successfully rely on chili peppers, as they have the same effect.

The dietary supplements from this category have several additional downsides. First of all, they can lead to chemical dependence if taken for prolonged periods of time. Secondly, long term use of such weight loss supplements leads to a tolerance to the compounds they contain. In other words, the weight loss effect tends to diminish in time.

Chili peppers have none of these disadvantages and can represent a healthy way of losing the excessive weight. If chili peppers and, more precisely, capsaicin are used for inducing thermogenesis, it is recommended to consume them in tandem with a low-fat diet. In this scenario, weight-loss increases by ten-fold. Chilies themselves will lower your appetite for sweets and fatty foods, fact that will also play an important role if you wish to lose some weight.  

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