I’ve been getting spammed with ads for this ‘hot new weight loss secret’ the last few weeks on YouTube. Curiosity eventually got the better of me. Rather than skipping the ad, I actually clicked the button to learn more. Wow – who am I?
The link took me to a sales video where they were promising to reveal the secret that I needed to get shredded instantly. This ONE thing was holding me back from igniting my metabolic furnace.
The funny bit? I couldn’t figure out what they were selling, even after watching for over 20 minutes. I gave up listening and just clicked ‘buy now’ to see what it was they were selling. The product was…
***Drumroll please ***
Now all the heat analogies made sense.
Anyway, I thought it would be a good topic to review for you in case you’ve come across this supplement.
What is capsaicin?
Peppers have been used as a flavoring spice for thousands of years. There are many things that make a pepper a pepper, but capsaicin has been found to be a major bioactive component. Specifically, capsaicin is the compound responsible for the heat sensation you get whenever you eat peppers.
What are the claims around capsaicin?
Here are the top claims made about it (found by scrolling through products on Amazon):
- Support fat breakdown
- Helps suppress appetite
- Boosts metabolism
- Enhances calorie expenditure
- Supports healthy circulation
- Supports weight management
- Supports healthy body composition
- Reduces fat intake
Among many others…
What does the science say?
There IS data to suggest that those populations who eat foods high in capsaicin tend to have a lower prevalence of obesity. However, there are other potential variables that could impact rates of obesity outside of this one metric. The analogy would be – we see umbrella purchases closely parallel car accidents. Does this mean that buying umbrellas causes more car accidents? Obviously not. There is another variable that is responsible for both – rain.
Similarly, you need to be cautious when looking at cross-sectional nutrition data. It doesn’t mean that capsaicin caused these populations to have lower rates of obesity. It could have. But there could also be a million other reasons why they have lower rates – maybe they exercise more, maybe they eat less in general, maybe the genetics of the individuals in places where chili peppers grow favors anti-obesity factors, etc.
The only way to know if capsaicin causes weight loss is to do a true clinical trial. Give someone capsaicin and compare to those given a placebo. Then see what happens.
Have we done that research?
Yes, but not a lot.
We also have pretty convincing data that red peppers (not capsaicin directly) can suppress appetite and reduce intake of calories at a subsequent meal. That’s promising, but one meal doesn’t cause long-term weight loss.
One 12-week study had participants consume 6 mg capsaicin or placebo every day. Bodyweight decreased by 0.9 kg in the capsaicin group and by 0.5 kg in the placebo group. The capsaicin group also saw a -1.11% decrease in abdominal adiposity compared to -0.18% in the placebo group.
These results are a far cry from ‘getting shredded instantly’. I think most people would be disappointed with less than a pound (0.4 kg difference = 0.88 lbs.) of extra weight loss over a 12-week period.
Peppers are nutritious, packed with many beneficial bioactive compounds, and add a ton of flavor to dishes. We have data that they can help suppress appetite, which is great for people who are battling hunger on a diet. I frequently recommend inclusion of peppers into peoples’ food routines.
On the other hand, capsaicin supplementation doesn’t live up to the hype. I can say it’s not BAD, but the results are extremely modest and you’ll need to temper your expectations. It may not be worth the time or money to invest in.
If you are hoping you can change nothing and a magic capsaicin pill will instantly get you the fat loss you’ve been after, you are sadly mistaken. You will see a far better return on your time and efforts by focusing on the fundamentals – your nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc.
So eat peppers and don’t even think about capsaicin pills until your fundamentals are dialed in.
That’ll do it for this week. Thank you for reading. I know you have a lot of demands on your time and I truly appreciate that you spend a few minutes here with me. As always, if you need anything or want to chat – shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time, take care.