The study, led by researchers at the University of Wyoming, the study assessed the effect of exercise with or without dietary capsaicin on weight gain and obesity risk in a mouse model – finding that dietary capsaicin can stimulate thermogenesis and energy burning by activating receptors which are expressed in white and brown fat cells.
According to the study authors the mouse data, which is due to be presented at the Biophysical Society's 59th Annual Meeting, could help to prevent and manage obesity and other related health complications such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases - though the effect has not yet been demonstrated in carefully-controlled clinical trials.
"Obesity is caused by an imbalance between calorie intake and energy dissipation," explained study first author Vivek Krishnan. "In our bodies, white fat cells store energy and brown fat cells serve as thermogenic machinery to burn stored fat. Eating calorie-rich food and a lack of physical activity cause an imbalance in metabolism that leads to obesity."
"The main goal of our work is to expand the knowledge of the mechanism by which capsaicin antagonises obesity, as well as to advance the proof of principle of the anti-obesity potential of dietary capsaicin,” said the authors.
The team found that high-fat-diet obesity and dietary capsaicin – at a level of 0.01% 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 – suggesting that the suppression of obesity form a high-fat-diet by capsaicin is induced by transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1).
According to Krishnan and his colleagues, their results suggest that developing a natural dietary supplement as a strategy to combat obesity can be easily advanced to human clinical trials.
"We envision a nanoparticle-based sustained-release formulation of capsaicin, which is currently under development in our laboratory," said the team. "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."
While dietary capsaicin did not modify food or water intake the mice, “it did significantly increase the metabolic activity and energy expenditure in wild type mice fed a high-fat diet,” Krishnan noted.
Research presented at Biophysical Society's 59th Annual Meeting
"Dietary capsaicin and exercise: analysis of a two-pronged approach to counteract obesity" Authors: Vivek Krishnan, Kevin Fettel and Baskaran Thyagarajan
Abstract online here