Washington | Capsaicin – the chief ingredient in chili peppers – may be used as a diet-based supplement to prevent and manage obesity, scientists, including those of Indian-origin, have found. Researchers at the University of Wyoming in the US have developed a novel approach to stimulate energy metabolism – without the need to restrict calorie intake. Researchers from the laboratory of Dr Baskaran Thyagarajan found dietary capsaicin may stimulate thermogenesis and energy burning by activating its receptors, which are expressed in white and brown fat cells.
This may help to prevent and manage obesity and other related health complications such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases – though this effect has not yet been demonstrated in carefully-controlled clinical trials. Obesity is caused by an imbalance between calorie intake and energy dissipation, said Vivek Krishnan, a graduate student working in Thyagarajan’s lab.
In our bodies, 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, he said. While pursuing a strategy for obesity management, our group’s laboratory data revealed that dietary capsaicin – a chief ‘agonist’ (initiator of a response) of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel protein – suppresses high-fat-diet-induced obesity, Krishnan said.
Researchers found that high-fat-diet obesity and dietary capsaicin – 0.01 per cent of capsaicin in the total high fat diet – prevented high-fat-diet-induced weight gain in trials with wild type mice, but not in mice that genetically lacked TRPV1. Further, dietary capsaicin didn’t modify food or water intake in these mice, although it did significantly increase the metabolic activity and energy expenditure in wild type mice fed a high-fat diet, but not for mice that genetically lack TRPV1, Krishnan noted.
Researchers believe that dietary capsaicin induces browning of white adipose tissue and stimulates thermogenesis to counteract obesity. Developing a natural dietary supplement as a strategy to combat obesity can be easily advanced to human clinical trials, according to the researchers. We envision a nanoparticle-based sustained-release formulation of capsaicin, which is currently under development in our laboratory, researchers said.
In turn, this will advance a novel dietary supplement-based approach to prevent and treat one of the life-threatening diseases, obesity and its associated complications – in humans, they said. The work will be presented at a meeting of the Biophysical Society in Baltimore.
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