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Is There A Connection Between Capsaicin and Lowered Cholesterol?

Capsaicin May Help To Lower Your Cholesterol

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Updated October 14, 2008

Capsaicin is a chemical that is commonly found in chili peppers. While it lends a characteristic spicy, hot taste to many delicious foods, researchers are finding that it also has health benefits, too. There has been some debate, however, as to whether or not capsaicin can lower cholesterol levels.

Capsaicin has a few healthy benefits already associated with it. It is most commonly used in small concentrations because it can be very irritating. Because of the warming effect it has when it comes in contact with tissues, capsaicin is commonly found in creams used for muscle soreness, sprains, and arthritis of the joints. It is also being investigated for the treatment of other health conditions, such as pain occurring after surgery, weight loss, cancer, and drug abuse.

Is There A Connection Between Capsaicin And Lowered Cholesterol?

The results concerning capsaicin’s ability to lower cholesterol vary. Most studies only looked at its use on rats that were fed a high cholesterol diet. From these results, it appears that capsaicin may slightly lower cholesterol levels, if at all. While cholesterol levels were not affected in most of the studies, it also appeared that triglyceride levels were lowered by almost 10% or less in many cases.

Another interesting observation noted in these studies was that capsaicin reduced the rate at which LDL became oxidized. While it is known that LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, oxidized LDL is worse because it has the ability to adhere to inflamed vessels and can encourage the development of atherosclerosis.

The Bottom Line

While capsaicin may not be able to reduce cholesterol, some studies indicate that it may be helpful in slightly lowering triglycerides and preventing the oxidation of cholesterol.

Most of the studies used capsaicin supplements containing 0.015% capsaicin. In the one study involving humans, 30 g of peppers were used. This is roughly equal to a little under a half-cup. While this might not seem like much, it may be excessive for those who cannot tolerate the fiery taste of chili peppers. Supplements may help you to tolerate the burning feeling that capsaicin that causes in your mouth, but you will also miss the high amount of vitamin C and fiber that is also contained in chili peppers.

While you would need to consume a large amount of capsaicin and/or chili peppers for it to be toxic, it may make conditions, such as GERD and irritable bowel syndrome, worse.

Sources:

Ahuja KD, Ball MJ. Effects of daily ingestion on serum lipoprotein oxidation in adult men and women. Br J Nutr. 2006. 96(2):239-42.

Kempaiah RK, Manjunatha H, Srinivasan K. Protective effect of dietary capsaicin on induced oxidation of low density lipoprotein in rats. Mol Cell Biochem. 275(1-2):7-13.

Kempaiah RK and Srinivasan K. Hypolipodemic and antioxidant effects of curcurmin and capsaicin in high fat fed rats. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 85(6):588-96.

Manjunatha H and Srinivasan K. Hypolipidemic effects of dietary curcumin and capsaicin in induced hypercholesterolemic rats. Lipids. 42(12):1133-42.

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