Purdue University Logo Over the years, the medical world has often hinted about red pepper’s involvement in tackling obesity. Capsaicin, a component in this popular spice is known to reduce the growth of fat cells and hunger. It may also increase energy expenditure which results in burning calories. A groundbreaking study initiated by the Purdue University now asserts that reasonable intake of red pepper can help suppress appetite.

In this study, 25 non-overweight people amongst which 13 who liked spicy food and 12 who did not have been examined for a period of six weeks. The preferred level of pepper for each group was ascertained well in advance. Those who did not like red pepper possibly preferred 0.3 grams, while regular spice users went for 1.8 grams of ordinary dried, ground cayenne red pepper. Generally, red pepper consumption does not elevate core body temperature and burn more calories through natural energy expenditure. However, it was mentioned that those who did not consume red pepper regularly may have experienced a decline in hunger, especially for fatty, salty and sweet foods.

“We found that consuming red pepper can help manage appetite and burn more calories after a meal, especially for individuals who do not consume the spice regularly,” added Richard Mattes, distinguished professor of foods and nutrition who collaborated with doctoral student Mary-Jon Ludy. “This finding should be considered a piece of the puzzle because the idea that one small change will reverse the obesity epidemic is simply not true. However, if a number of small changes are added together, they may be meaningful in terms of weight management. Dietary changes that don’t require great effort to implement, like sprinkling red pepper on your meal, may be sustainable and beneficial in the long run, especially when paired with exercise and healthy eating.”

The appetite responses appear between subjects who liked red pepper and those who did not. So when the stimulus is unfamiliar it allegedly has a greater effect. When it becomes familiar to people, red pepper seemingly loses its efficacy. Taste is known to work on two very different levels. It not only determines the palatability of foods, but also influences physiology.

The study is published in Physiology and Behavior.