Capsaicin, the spicy, active component in chili and red peppers, is commonly used in various spices. You may recognize it as the cause of the burning sensation on your tongue when you eat spicy food.
What are the Benefits of Capsaicin?
Capsaicin and its benefits are extremely well researched. To date, over 6000 articles and studies on this spicy component have been published. In clinical trials, capsaicin has demonstrated both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, capsaicin is most well known for and commonly used to help improve body composition due to its thermogenic (fat-burning) effects, and enhance blood sugar and lipid levels. Supplementation with capsaicin can help treat and possibly prevent obesity by improving lipid factors, fat oxidation (burning), and satiety (feeling full). Capsaicin has demonstrated the ability to decrease abdominal fat mass, feelings of hunger, and energy intake.In other words, capsaicin helps you feel full and subsequently eat less. Decreased calorie intake leads to fat loss and overall weight loss.
Obesity, defined as having a BMI (body mass index) of over 30, is an increasingly common condition that is currently affecting more than 30% of the population. Over half of Americans today are considered either overweight or obese. Ingesting capsaicin, through food or pill (supplement) form, causes a temporary increase in body temperature. You may have experienced this if you consume a particularly spicy meal and start to sweat. This increase in body temperature is, in part, what improves fat oxidation and increased metabolic rate.
Since capsaicin is a natural thermogenic, its benefits extend to exercise as well as diet. Ingesting capsaicin prior to low intensity cardio exercise lead to a marked increase in fat burned during clinical studies, without the side effects of the typical thermogenic/fat-burning pre-workout supplement.
Taking capsaicin daily has been shown to improve blood sugar levels and other blood markers related to diabetes. In studies were insulin levels are monitored, those taking capsaicin were shown to maintain a more consistent level of insulin compared to placebo.
Capsaicin may also improve digestion, and is common in dietary supplements because of its effectiveness in increasing the production of digestive fluids in the stomach. This could prevent symptoms of indigestion as well. A lesser known, but no less effective benefit of capsaicin is how effective it can be for pain relief; neuralgia (nerve pain) in particular. Capsaicin relieves pain through two mechanisms: endorphins and nerve signal interruption. Capsaicin produces a burning sensation wherever it comes in contact – even in your mouth and digestive system. Your body reacts to this by producing endorphins, a natural pain reliever. In a separate mechanism, capsaicin interferes with the channels that transmit pain signals from nerves to the brain. For those experiencing nerve pain, capsaicin treatments can relieve pain by as much as 80% or more, according to clinical studies.
Sources of Capsaicin
Capsaicin is found in nearly every spicy chili pepper known; even the mildly spicy ones. It is also found in a variety of spice blends, rubs, and other food products that require a bit of a kick for flavor.
Common Food Sources
- Cayenne Pepper
- Jamaica Pepper
- Thai Pepper
- Habanero Chili
If you have a tough time with spicy foods, capsaicin supplements are available at most drug stores, natural food stores, and through online vendors. Capsaicin is a common ingredient in over the counter digestive aids and thermogenic supplements.
Do I Need A Capsaicin Supplement?
Since capsaicin is not a vitamin or mineral needed for the human body to function, it is considered a true supplement in that it can provide health benefits, but you cannot be “capsaicin deficient”. The real question is: can I benefit from a capsaicin supplement? The answer: most likely, you can!
Should you be supplementing with Capsaicin?
Unless you have an intestinal condition such as Crohn’s Disease or IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), capsaicin is usually well tolerated. Individuals that are overweight or obese, and those with hyperglycemia or type II diabetes will benefit the most from capsaicin supplementation. Anyone hoping to improve their body composition will benefit from ingesting capsaicin, or a supplement with capsaicin, prior to exercise to increase fat loss.
How Much Capsaicin Do I Need?
There is no official RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) for capsaicin as a supplement or dietary aid. However, a starting dose of 135mg per day has been shown to be effective in promoting weight loss. You should take capsaicin with food. You may wish to increase or decrease your dose based on individual tolerance.
What are the side effects of Capsaicin?
Common side effects while consuming capsaicin are gastrointestinal irritation, fullness, dyspepsia (indigestion), diarrhea and stomach pain. Your personal reaction to spicy foods (whether or not you get a stomachache afterwards) is a good indication of how well you will tolerate capsaicin supplements. The safety and effectiveness of capsaicin during pregnancy has not been evaluated.
Are There Any Medications or Supplements I Shouldn’t Take With Capsaicin?
Trails conducted studying the effects of capsaicin on antiarrhythmic and antiischemic medications show that capsaicin may increase the efficacy of these medications. With regular use, this may lead to decreased dosage of the prescription medications.
Antiarrhythmic drugs include: procainamide, mexiletine, quinidine, and other prescription medication
Interested in learning whether capsaicin supplementation is right for you? Take the Vitality DNA test today to find out exactly which nutrients your body needs.