Does Eating Spicy Food Help You Lose Weight?

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Chili peppers and other spices do more than just add a little kick to your food. Some reports show that they can help you lose weight, too. But is it just a myth? Farm to Fit looked into the research to find out what's up with this claim. Here is some of the scientific evidence:

  • An overview of 20 separate studies looked at capsaicin, the compound in chili peppers that gives them their heat, and found that consuming capsaicin increases energy expenditure in such a way that it would produce "clinically significant" levels of weight loss within 1-2 years, burning about 50 extra calories a day. It also found that regular consumption reduced appetite.
  • Research from Purdue University found that adding red pepper to your diet can curb the appetite. "We found that consuming red pepper can help manage appetite and burn more calories after a meal," Richard Mattes, a distinguished professor of foods and nutrition and one of the study's authors, told Purdue University News Service.
  • A review article published in Chemical Senses in 2012 found that study subjects who had eaten cayenne said it helped reduce their cravings for fatty, sweet and salty foods.
  • A clinical study published in 2014 in Appetite compared a group of subjects whose diet was supplemented with capsaicin, with a group who did not have any capsaicin in their diet. The group with capsaicin reported an increase in feeling satiated and full, and said they were less likely to overeat.

How Does It Work?

The magic is in the capsaicin—remember, that's the component in chili peppers that gives them their heat. (It's also what makes pepper spray so effective!) Capsaicin creates heat within the body that burns fat. By triggering thermogenesis, the process that creates body heat in warm-blooded animals like humans, capsaicin stimulates the conversion of white fat to brown fat. Brown fat burns calories—it does this naturally when a person exercises, so consuming capsaicin in a way mimics the fat-burning effect of exercise.

Time for the Spicy Food Diet?

Before you jump all-in on a spicy food fad diet, it's worth looking at how much of an impact spicy foods can actually have on weight loss. A study done in *Obesity Open Access* gave 40 healthy men and women either a capsaicin capsule or a placebo, and measured their metabolism after taking the pill. Participants who had been given the capsaicin burned 116 calories on average, while participants who took the placebo burned less than 15.

A 2018 analysis by Hungarian researchers found that capsaicin only burns about 50 to 70 extra calories a day in people, which Men's Health noted is about equivalent to a large bite of pizza.

The bottom line is, it's always exercise and an all-around healthy diet that contributes most to weight loss. At Farm to Fit, we have meal plans tailored to different calorie intakes to help you meet your weight loss goals. However, by all means, chow down on spicy food when you have the opportunity, and it might give your weight loss the extra kick that it needs!