Recent investigations state that hot spices—such as hot chillies and pepper—might increase thermogenesis and, therefore, boost the caloric expenditure. Thermogenesis is the process of heat production and liberation in the body. A higher thermogenesis is associated with increased energy expenditure through the oxidation of fats. If this is true, the hypothesis that states that using hot spices helps to increase the calories one burns after each meal—thus helping to lose weight—is not such a crazy idea.
At team of researchers at the Human Biology Department of Maastricht University in the Netherlands recently published a review of some of the strategies used in weight control and their results in the American Journal of Physiology- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.
According to the review, capsaicine—the compound responsible for the hot taste of chillies—might be effective.
Some studies have shown than the incorporation of capsaicine into meals may increase energy expenditure up to 23 percent.How do spices work to stimulate thermogenesis? Different studies on black pepper have shown that piperine, the main “pungent” compound in this spice, stimulates a receptor known as TRPV1, which is found in the brain and in other areas of the nervous system.
This receptor, which is also related with taste perception, would then be acting as a “thermometer.” Experts explain that, when activated, it triggers an increase in the liberation of heat inside the body. This receptor is also stimulated by capsaicine—the irritating compound in chillies. Ginger is another spice that slightly stimulates the TRPV1 receptor, but is more frequently used in Anglo-Saxon countries than in Latin America.
Therefore, the combination of different spices, such as ginger, pepper, coriander, cumin, and turmeric may act synergistically to benefit the body. Some studies using laboratory mice have shown that the combination of these spices—commonly used in Indian food—might have favorable effects on digestion, since they stimulate enzimatic activity, as well as the secretion of gastric acids.
However, this is not meant to be a magical cure for overweight or obesity, because these disorders have several causes, and oneof them could be an alteration of thermogenesis in the body. Nevertheless, the fact that studies have shown a 23 percent increase in energy expenditure with the use of capsacine seems to be very encouraging for hot chilli fans.
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