You’re on your second slice of liberally spiced pizza and feel you could put away another piece. Strangely, you can’t.
Blame it – or credit it – on capsaicin, the molecule in chili that delivers the “hot” sensation.
New research suggests that capsaicin can indicate if you’re overeating and can make you stop by creating the feeling of “being full”. This translates into eating lesser food and not piling on the pounds.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE and conducted at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, found that a stomach receptor that detects capsaicin could win the battle between the body and the brain when it comes to food.
We all know that capsaicin, an active component of chilli peppers, is commonly added to food for added spice or “heat”. But how can capsaicin-spiced products, be it hot sauce or salsa, send out the message that you’re full?
Turns out that the receptors for capsaicin, known as TRPV1, are located on nerve endings in the stomach. Eating a meal stretches the stomach, activating the nerves through these receptors and signalling to the brain that you’re full.
The TRPV1 channel is key to the sensation of “feeling full”. The study also showed that disrupted activity of the capsaicin receptor is behind the slowed feeling of fullness reported in cases of obesity. A high-fat diet can knock out the receptor and lead to an increase in food intake.
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So can consuming more chilli ensure that we end the overeating cycle?
The study authors seem to agree on this if “you can tolerate chilli”. Or else, they suggest that a capsulated form of capsaicin be developed to target the TRPV1 receptors in the stomach without having to feel the heat, literally.
This is not the first time that capsaicin has grabbed the spotlight. Research has long suggested that the compound possesses anti-obesity, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammation and anti-cancer properties.
A Chinese study, published in the BMJ journal, earlier this month linked eating spicy food to a lower risk of death. The research collated dietary data from nearly 490,000 people, aged 30 to 79, and found that the association was higher with fresh chilli peppers as against the dried variety.