It's long been known that spicy red peppers can help suppress appetite and burn calories. But most scientific studies of red peppers' properties used quantities of the stuff that were too large to be applicable to Americans. Now, researchers report that even a reasonable amount of red pepper consumption may do the trick.
In their study, Richard Mattes, a distinguished professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University, and doctoral student Mary-Jon Ludy found that eating a moderate amount of dried cayenne red pepper — less than a teaspoon — boosted calorie burn and reduced appetite, especially for people who didn't typically use the spice.
The researchers found that the capsaicin — the compound that gives red peppers its burn — raised the body's core temperature during digestion in all participants, so everyone burned more calories after eating. But the researchers noted that only the people who were not accustomed to eating spicy food benefited from the appetite-suppressing factor: these participants reported a decrease in hunger, especially for fatty, sugary and salty foods.
The authors suggest that while other studies have looked at capsaicin in capsule form, its appetite-suppressing effect may be enhanced when people can actually taste its flavor. "That burn in your mouth is responsible for that effect," Mattes said in a statement. "It turns out you get a more robust effect if you include the sensory part because the burn contributes to a rise in body temperature, energy expenditure and appetite control."