How chillis can prevent liver damage
The same ingredient that makes your lips tingle when eating suicide hot wings or Sichuan food could do more than just fire up your taste buds.
Daily consumption of capsaicin, the active compound of chilli peppers, has shown to have beneficial effects for preventing liver damage and progression, in new research revealed at last week's International Liver Congress in Austria.
Capsaicin also offers hope for dieters: another recent study shows that consuming the compound can help prevent weight gain when eating a high-fat diet.
The hotter the chilli pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. Leading the heat ratings are habanero and scotch bonnet peppers, followed by jalapenos.
Previous studies have shown capsaicin to offer natural relief for osteoarthritis pain, to have cardiovascular benefits, to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and to boost immunity.
The liver study involved two groups of mice induced with liver damage and then fed capsaicin in their food.
One group had their bile duct obstructed for three days, leading to bile accumulation and liver fibrosis. The other was treated with one of the most potent hepatotoxins known as carbon tetrachloride, an inorganic compound widely used in fire extinguishers and as a cleaning agent.
Capsaicin partially improved liver damage in the first group of mice and inhibited further progression of the injury. In the hepatotoxin-treated mice, it prevented livers from injury development, but did not reduce the fibrosis when it was already established.
The study on capsaicin as a potential diet-based supplement was also done in mice. University of Wyoming researchers fed wild-type mice a high-fat diet along with capsaicin - which made up 0.01 per cent of the total diet - and found this prevented weight gain in the rodents.
The compound significantly increased the metabolic activity and energy expenditure in the mice, suggesting that dietary capsaicin induces browning of white adipose tissue and stimulates thermogenesis and energy burning to counteract obesity.
The Wyoming researchers are developing a nanoparticle-based sustained-release formulation of capsaicin in hopes that it could be used as a natural dietary supplement to combat obesity.
Meanwhile, there is probably no harm in spicing up what's on your plate.