The genus Capsicum is comprised of about 20 species of perennial shrubs that are distributed worldwide. The plants have many common names, including red chile, chilli pepper, hot red pepper, tabasco, paprika and cayenne. Cayenne is a spice derived mainly from two cultivated species of the Capsicum genus, Capsicum annum L. and Capsicum frutescens L. Capsicum species have been consumed by humans since about 7,500 BCE; around 5,7000 BCE people began to cultivate the plant for dietary and medicinal purposes. Capsicum species are thus among the oldest cultivated crops of the Americas. Today they are popular condiments throughout the world1.
The fruits of most Capsicum species contain significant amounts of vitamins B, C, E and carotenoids. C. annum fruits are among the richest known sources of vitamin C, and may comprise over 30% w/w of the fruit 2. The pungency of Capsicum species is attributed to a group of eight capsaicinoid compounds. Ninety percent of the pungency principles in hot chilli peppers are capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin3. Red pepper products and
Red pepper products and capsaicins have been of keen interest to scientists interested in providing assistance to individuals striving to lose weight. A human clinical study has evaluated the benefits of the capsicum fruit extract standardized to 2% capsaicinoids ingredient on parameters associated with weight loss. In a cross-over randomized controlled trial of 20 healthy, exercise-trained young men and women, a single serving significantly increased lipolysis (as measured by increased blood levels of both free fatty acids (two hours post-intake) and glycerol (4 hours post-intake]) 4. In an unpublished seven day open-label trial of over 150 adults with a BMI < 40, subjects took the same product with breakfast. The study participants reported that their appetite significantly decreased and their desire to exercise and their workout intensity increased. The product was safe and did not affect resting heart rate or blood pressure.
Many, 5,6,7,8,9,10,11 but not all 12,13 human clinical trials have documented the benefits of red pepper or capsaicinoids for enhancing energy expenditure and/or fat oxidation in both normal and overweight adults. Red pepper extracts have demonstrated the ability to reduce appetite and unhealthy food cravings, 13 with stronger benefits reported for non-spicy food eaters 7 or if products were consumed in a beverage 10. In some studies, stronger benefits have been reported for individuals with either normal11 or higher 8 BMIs, or by individuals taking products during exercise9. Products were safely consumed in these studies.
Capsaicin intake appears to be safely tolerated by most people. In human studies, for example, meals containing 0.3-10g red pepper have been consumed as a single meal or for up to two days, 30g of a chili blend containing 55% cayenne has been safely consumed daily for four weeks, and a red pepper soup containing 0.2-2.8 mg capsaicin has been consumed until satiety 6. A single dose of 1.03 g red chili pepper containing 2.56 mg capsaicin had no significant effect on blood pressure in healthy normal-BMI adults5. In an unpublished six-week dose-escalating study, the capsicum fruit extract standardized to 2% capsaicinoids ingredient was well-tolerated by overweight human subjects. Subjects reported no changes in their overall health, skin color, bowel movements, hair color, digestion, urination (frequency and/or burning), mouth or throat, breathing. There were no significant effects on blood pressure, vital signs, electrocardiograms or clinical chemistry (including liver function, lung function, kidney function and CBCs).