Chilli compound may boost energy burning and help weight loss

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

A compound extracted from chilli peppers may boost energy expenditure and aid weight loss, according to new findings from the University of California, Los Angeles.

While this is not the first time that researchers have linked chilli compounds with weight loss, previous reports have focussed on the compound capsaicin, known to the give red pepper its heat. However, new data presented at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting in Anaheim indicates that a non-burning version of capsaicin called dihydrocapsiate (DCT) may also aid weight loss.

If further studies support the potential of DCT to aid weight loss it may see a strengthening of chilli extracts in the weight management supplements market. The market for food, beverage and supplement weight management products is already valued at $3.64bn (2009 figures) in the US, according to Euromonitor. In Western Europe, the market was worth $1.3bn in 2009.

Over 300m adults are obese worldwide, according to latest statistics from the WHO and the International Obesity Task Force. About one-quarter of the US adult population is said to be obese, with rates in Western Europe on the rise although not yet at similar levels.

Researchers led by UCLA’s David Heber recruited 34 men and women who were willing to consume a very low-calorie liquid meal replacement product for 28 days. The participants were then randomized to receive placebo pills or supplements containing DCT at one of two dosage levels.

The study, the first to examine the potential health benefits of DCT, found that energy expenditure almost doubled in the high-dose DCT group compared to the placebo group. Increases in fat oxidation were also observed – evidence that the body was using more fat as fuel.

Noting the limitations of their study, Prof Heber and his co-workers noted that they only tested the effects of DCT in response to a single meal. It is also not known if the results would be different in lean versus obese people.

The data shows the potential of DCT, perhaps over capsaicin. A study last year by Danish and Dutch researchers noted: “Capsaicin only increases liking of the food when used at lower concentrations, and one can only comply with a relatively small dosage of capsaicin over the longer term.

“Therefore we suggest that a lower dosage of capsaicin should be combined with other bioactive ingredients in order to reach optimal effects,” ​they added (Clinical Nutrition,​ doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2009.01.010)

The data was presented as part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting in Anaheim. NutraIngredients has not seen the full data.

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