The Possible Health Benefits of Capsaicin
Note: Please discuss any health-related changes or questions with your physician; capsaicin may not be appropriate for your particular lifestyle or health status.
It’s no surprise that we here at the New Mexico Green Chile Company love peppers. We love their bright colors, the exciting flavors, and (of course) the heat they provide when added to our favorite meals! Did you know, however, that they might be good for your health?
What is Capsaicin?
Have you ever wondered where that heat comes actually from? That peppery punch we love so much comes from a molecular compound found in chili peppers called “capsaicin.” This compound triggers your nerves to send signals to your brain that suggest they are experiencing a reaction to excessive heat, although no chemical burn is occurring. The result is simply a burning sensation that can be quite intense depending on the level of Scoville Heat Units (the measurement system for the spicy heat of peppers) that the chile boasts.
Surprisingly enough, capsaicin has been used by many patients for pain management purposes, specifically in the world of arthritis. One of the ways capsaicin works in your body is by depleting a neurotransmitter called “substance P.” This substance is responsible for sending pain messages to your brain. When used for pain management, capsaicin is often used topically in cream form to deplete the substance P in your body. While this method might cause burning sensations initially, after time the discomfort should decrease as the substance P becomes further depleted.
It’s important to note that this form of pain management should only be used after consulting with your physician, as it is not appropriate for everyone.
Research has been done in recent years into the effects of capsaicin on the metabolism. What has been determined is that, after consumption of spicy foods containing capsaicin, the metabolism is sped up by about 8% over a person’s normal average metabolic rate. This kick in metabolism, coupled with the claims that capsaicin might actually work as an appetite suppressant, is a great reason to start adding chile peppers to your meals.
Be advised, however, that spicy foods can cause digestion problems (including heartburn and ulcers) in some people, so it’s important to discuss any significant diet changes with your doctor.
Another exciting health benefit that is shown to stem from capsaicin consumption is a boost to heart health. According to a study published in 2014, “Results showed capsaicinoids but not capsinoids could decrease plasma total cholesterol (TC), reduce the formation of atherosclerotic plaque, and relax the aortic artery.” That might sound overly-technical, but it simply means that capsaicinoids (found in chile peppers) can reduce blood plasma cholesterol and (according to the study) “possess beneficial vascular activity.”
Now this doesn’t mean you should start eating an excessive amount of chile peppers each day to expect perfect heart health, but it does suggest that fresh pepper products are a beneficial addition to a diet plan that is focused on heart health.
A Tasty Way to Kick Up Your Health
There are so many reasons to add chile peppers to your meal plans. Whether it’s simply to bring some exciting new flavors to the table or to supplement a healthy lifestyle, we can’t recommend this powerful produce enough!