Spices in ‘moderate’ doses don’t help weight loss, finds study

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Black pepper

Hot spices like chilli peppers, horseradish, ginger, mustard and wasabi were not found to have any satiety benefits when consumed in amounts consistent with a western diet, according to a new study.

Researchers in Copenhagen, Denmark, set out to examine the potential of spices as part of common weight-loss strategies, after earlier studies found that some hot spices could boost satiety.

“Based on this evidence we wanted to investigate if hot spices in meals suppress energy intake and appetite when used in lower doses that are perceived as moderately hot, ensuring that the meals are still palatable,”​ write the researchers in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

The doses used in the current study were around 0.4mg capsaicin, compared to 30mg used in a laboratory setting by Yoshika et al. (1999), which had found “significant suppressive effects”​ of chilli pepper on energy intake and appetite.

Study details

The researches from the University of Copenhagen recruited forty participants, who were given five meals of fixed portion sizes, served with or without five hot spices followed by a buffet. The spices were chilli peppers, horseradish, ginger, mustard and wasabi.

Food intake, appetite and liking, mood and desire to eat sweet, sour, fatty, salty, bitter and hot foods were then all measured.

Appetite was scored before the fixed starter meal, every three minutes during the starter meal and again after the buffet. Hunger, fullness and satiety were scored from ‘not at all’ to ‘very’. Wanting to eat more was scored from ‘very weak’ to ‘very strong’, and prospective food consumption from ‘nothing at all’ to ‘a very large portion’.

The researchers reported only “minor effects” ​of hot spices on energy intake and appetite.

“The realistic (for a western diet) but relatively low doses of hot spices used in the present experiment might have been too low to reduce energy intake and have appetite suppressive effects and might have been too small to overcome variations due to contextual factors, day-to day variations in hunger sensations and physical activity, the high protein content of the meals, etc.”

Controlled studies for more insight

They suggested that controlled studies with standardised meals of same macronutrient composition served in natural environments are needed to investigate if bioactive ingredients (e.g. capsaicin, AITC, gingerols and shogaols) affect appetite and energy intake.

“It is important to investigate which doses of hot spices might induce such effects, which mechanisms (e.g. sensory, cognitive as well as physiological), are responsible for them and whether they are large enough to aid weight loss or weight maintenance.”

“We suggest that a lower dosage of several hot spices in combination with other bioactive ingredients (e.g. CH-19 sweet pepper and green tea) (Reinbach, Smeets, Martinussen, Møller, &Westerterp-Plantenga, 2009) might be needed to reach optimal effects on energy intake and appetite,​they concluded.

Source: Food Quality and Preference

Volume 21, Issue 6, Pages 655-661

"Effects of hot spices on energy intake, appetite and sensory specific desires in humans"

Authors: Helene Christine Reinbach, Torben Martinussen, Per Møller

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