CBSNews: Chili peppers may fire up weight

If you like your chili peppers flaming hot, you may be in for a slimming surprise.

A group of researchers at the University of Wyoming has found evidence that capsaicin may help in the fight against obesity. The component gives chili peppers their heat. It influence weight loss by stimulating energy-burning and turning white fat to brown fat.

So what is brown fat, and why do you want it?

“White fat cells store energy and brown fat cells serve as thermogenic (heat produced by burning fat) machinery to burn stored fat. Eating calorie-rich food and a lack of physical activity cause an imbalance in metabolism that leads to obesity,” explained Vivek Krishnan. (she is  a graduate student in Dr. Baskaran Thyagarajan’s lab at the University of Wyoming’s School of Pharmac)

Simply put, the more brown fat you have, the more calories you burn.

When brown fat activates it can burn up to 300 calories in 24 hours, says Labros Sidossis. Sidossis is professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, told CBS News.

And that’s not all. Studies show brown fat may improve insulin sensitivity. It also helps to control blood sugar and lowering your risk of diabetes and obesity.

Enter capsaicin. Through trials with mice, the laboratory found that a relatively low percentage (.01) of capsaicin in the total high-fat diet prevented weight gain.

The lab theorizes that dietary capsaicin “induces ‘browning’ of white fat and stimulates thermogenesis,” or energy burning.

As adults, we don’t have very much of this helpful brown fat in our bodies. Deposits are limited to small areas in the neck and upper back. Previous research shows that expanding brown fat is possible. Therefore person should expose himself to colder temperatures for a few weeks. And, now, chili peppers may be the next big thing to kick up brown fat growth.

Other benefits of chili peppers are being investigated. Some think they might even fight cancer.

Dr. Michael Freeman, director of the Cancer Biology Program at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told CBS News, “Cancer cells can be induced to activate a suicide program biochemically by certain sorts of molecular processes. And capsaicin binds to a protein on the membrane of certain cells. And in response to this binding, the tumor cell responds by killing itself.”

Meanwhile the University of Wyoming lab focus on developing a natural dietary supplement from capsaicin as a strategy to combat obesity.

The researchers hope to create a “novel dietary supplement-based approach to prevent and treat one of the life-threatening diseases, obesity and its associated complications — in humans.”

Source: cbsnews

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