Native Americans used cayenne pepper as both food and seasoning for almost 9,000 years. Fast forward to the present and this fiery spice has become a kitchen staple. Besides firing up the palate, studies show cayenne pepper can also speed up metabolism and suppress appetiteEffects of capsaicin, green tea and CH-19 sweet pepper on appetite and energy intake in humans in negative and positive energy balance.Reinbach, HC., Smeets, A., Martinussen, T., et al. Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 30, Frederiksberg C, Denmark. Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland). Jun; 28(3):260-5.

Lightning in a (Spice) Bottle: What It Is

The hot and spicy taste of cayenne pepper comes from capsaicin, a compound found in many hot peppers. Capsaicin is known to boost metabolism, causing the body to produce extra heat and burn more calories for fuel. Research suggests that after consuming foods with capsaicin, the body’s metabolic rate (aka energy use) can increase 15 to 20 percent for up to two hours. Other studies suggest capsaicin also increases fat oxidation, allowing the body to better use fat as fuelEffects of novel capsinoid treatment on fatness and energy metabolism in humans: possible pharmacogenetic implications.RSnitker, S., Fujishima, Y., Shen, H., et al. University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009 Jan; 89(1):45-50.Pharmacokinetic and the effect of capsaicin in Capsicum frutescens on decreasing plasma glucose level. Chaiyasit, K., Khovidhunkit, W., Wittayalertpanya, S. Inter-department of Pharmacology, Graduate School, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 2009 Jan; 92(1):108-13..

But don’t just down spices and expect the pounds to melt away. The amount of capsaicin in cayenne is relatively small and won’t carry far beyond that two-hour metabolic boost. A more significant effect of cayenne is appetite suppression. It turns out the capsaicin in readily-edible amounts of spice might be enough to help cut cravings for fatty, salty, and sweet foods. Muy muy caliente!

Add Some Pep(per) To Your Step: What It Means to You

Eater beware: this hot item comes with some words of caution. Cayenne pepper can decrease the effectiveness of some common medications like aspirin, blood thinning drugs, and antacids. People with latex, banana, avocado, kiwi, or chestnut allergies may also be allergic to cayenne pepper.

Cayenne pepper spices up a wide variety of food and drink, so consider this hot tamale for its powerful kick and potent metabolic punch.