Archive | June, 2014

Can eating spicy foods help you lose weight?

18 Jun

Written by: Caitlin Costello

Image courtesy of: Caitlin Costello

Image courtesy of Caitlin Costello.


Recently, there has been some buzz in the media surrounding the idea that eating spicy foods, mainly hot peppers, can help with weight loss. But is this really the case?

Research has shown that there are bioactive compounds found in hot peppers called capsaicinoids that may be helpful in weight-loss (Whiting et al., 2012). These compounds are responsible for the hot, spicy sensation that you experience when eating these foods. Capsinoids, their sister compounds, have similar physical effects but are less powerful in flavour (Snitker et al., 2009), and more tolerable if you aren’t accustomed to hot spices! Studies have shown that both of these compounds may provide their benefits through reducing appetite and increasing energy expenditure (Whiting et al., 2012). So let’s take a look at the evidence:

One study showed that capsaicinoids, given in the form of 0.9g of red pepper mixed in with tomato juice, 30 minutes before eating, may help reduce self-reported feelings of hunger and improve satiety (Westerterp-Plantenga, Smeets & LeJeune, 2005). A group of healthy adults consumed the red pepper tomato juice before each meal for 2 consecutive days. Feelings of satiety increased and the average energy intake over the 2 days was lower with red pepper consumption, compared to tomato juice alone (Westerterp-Plantenga, Smeets & LeJeune, 2005).

The results of this study are promising however, another study conducted in which healthy adults consumed a lunch containing cayenne (about 1g of red pepper equivalent), showed no significant effects on self-reported feelings of hunger and satiety, or hunger-related gut hormones (Smeets & Westerterp-Plantenga, 2009). Since this study was conducted over a number of hours, compared to the previous study which lasted 2 days, perhaps you have to become accustomed to capsaicin in order to see changes. Although, both of these studies still only represent short-term effects of capsaicinoids on hunger and appetite and more research is needed to see if these compounds have long-term benefits.

Other studies have looked at the effects of capsinoids on energy expenditure as opposed to energy intake. For example, in one study, participants took capsules containing 10mg of capsinoids or placebo capsules and measured changes in energy expenditure in a group of young, healthy males over 2.5 hours (Josse et al., 2010). The results showed an increase in metabolic rate and whole body fat-oxidation with the capsinoid treatment. However, it is important to note that these benefits were only seen for 30 minutes after the participants consumed the capsules, and the effects were not maintained throughout the remainder of the trial. Furthermore, other studies looking at capsinoid supplementation have found no significant effects on energy expenditure (Galgani & Ravussin, 2010; Snitker et al., 2009). Not only has this area of research still not reached a consensus, but the evidence is limited to the effects of capsinoids in concentrated capsules and the doses used in these studies are higher than you would normally get from foods. In order to obtain 10mg of capsinoids from food, you would have to eat about 10 hot chili peppers (Golob, 2011). Since most of us wouldn’t consume 10 chili peppers in one sitting, more research is needed to see if a realistic dose of capsinoids can boost your metabolism enough to make a difference.

In the meantime, if you want to try adding more spice to your diet, good sources of capsaicinoids and capsinoids include green and red chili, cayenne and tabasco peppers (Marie, 2014). If you can’t take the heat, sweet varieties like bell and paprika peppers also contain capsinoids, but in lesser amounts (Marie, 2014). So why not give these foods a try? You may discover some exciting new flavours, and your body just might thank you!


Galgani, J. E., & Ravussin, E. (2010). Effect of dihydrocapsiate on resting metabolic rate in humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(5), 1089-1093.

Golob, K. (2011). Can Chili Peppers help burn fat and speed up weight loss? Retrieved from:

Josse, A. R., Sherriffs, S. S., Holwerda, A. M., Andrews, R., Staples, A. W., & Phillips, S. M. (2010). Effects of capsinoid ingestion on energy expenditure and lipid oxidation at rest and during exercise. Nutr Metab (Lond), 7, 65.

Marie, J. (2014). Foods that have capsaicin. Retrieved from:

Smeets, A. J., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2009). The acute effects of a lunch containing capsaicin on energy and substrate utilisation, hormones, and satiety. European Journal of Nutrition, 48(4), 229-234.

Snitker, S., Fujishima, Y., Shen, H., Ott, S., Pi-Sunyer, X., Furuhata, Y., … & Takahashi, M. (2009). Effects of novel capsinoid treatment on fatness and energy metabolism in humans: possible pharmacogenetic implications. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), 45-50.

Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Smeets, A., & Lejeune, M. P. G. (2004). Sensory and gastrointestinal satiety effects of capsaicin on food intake. International Journal of Obesity, 29(6), 682-688.

Whiting, S., Derbyshire, E., & Tiwari, B. K. (2012). Capsaicinoids and capsinoids. A potential role for weight management? A systematic review of the evidence. Appetite, 59(2), 341-348.