Some like it hot: Cayenne pepper curbs appetite and boosts satiety

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/Bjernesph
© iStock/Bjernesph

Related tags Eating Nutrition Food

Adding to cayenne pepper to food can curb hunger, increase satiety and reduce cravings for salty food - but it increases the desire to eat sweet and fatty foods, Danish researchers have found. 

Despite the fact that chilies have already been identified as being effective in increasing energy expenditure, the amount that must be eaten for this effect to take place makes it unrealistic – for most people the burning sensation is too strong.

The team of researchers from the department of food science at Aarhus University in Denmark therefore wanted to determine whether a lower dose could have an effect on appetite and eating habits while still being palatable.

More satiated and energised...and with a craving to eat sweet, fatty foods

chili pepper, spicy, piment, Droits d'auteur  wasan gredpree
© iStock/wasan gredpree

“The spiced soup led to a steeper decrease in hunger and increase in satiation than the non-spiced soup over the meal,” ​write the researchers. “A significant effect of soup was found on satiation by the end of the meal."

One hour after intake this was still the case. Those who ate the spicy soup also felt more energised than those who had the control.

“Furthermore, addition of cayenne pepper was found to increase the desire to eat fatty and sweet foods. The increased desire for sweet and fatty foods was however not re-found in wanting for or liking of the taste samples dominated by a sweet (dried banana and canned peach) and fat (whipped cream and avocado) sensory profile.”

“Beside possible sensory alterations, sweet stimulation is known to relieve pain from irritants and could explain why sweet foods are desired during and/or after a spicy meal. This is supported by the fact that desire for sweet does not decrease as the meal containing cayenne pepper progress, whereas a drop in desire for sweet is observed during the meal without cayenne pepper.”

However, the authors call for more research on the subject before these findings can be incorporated in guidelines for healthy eating in the future.

The study

A total of 66 individuals aged between 20 and 50 years old (all of whom liked spicy food and tomato soup) were recruited to take part in the study.

The researchers used Karoline’s Køkken’s Classic tomato soup with thyme, manufactured by Arla Foods, and added 450 mg cayenne pepper per litre of soup, corresponding to 1.13 mg/L capsaicin and 40,000 Scoville heat units.

Participants were given four questionnaires to complete that focussed on liking and desire to eat more of the soup; general liking of tomato soup, physical- and psychological well-being sensations and satisfaction.

You need to feel the burn; supplements would be ineffective

Previous studies have already suggested that capsaicin may reduce hunger and increase energy expenditure, especially for people who do not eat the spice regularly

cayenne pepper Crédits 5PH
© iStock

and at high concentrations.

However, the authors of a 2011 study published in Physiology & Behavior Journal​ said that the ingredient would not have the same effect if it was taken in the form of a supplement.

"It turns out you get a more robust effect if you include the sensory part because the burn contributes to a rise in body temperature, energy expenditure and appetite control,”​ the lead researcher concluded.

Source: Appetite

“Cayenne pepper in a meal: Effect of oral heat on feelings of appetite, sensory specific desires and well-being”

Published online ahead of print,

Authors: B.V. Andersen, D.V. Byrne et al.

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