Can Capsaicin in Chili Peppers Promote Weight Loss?

Should You Spice Up to Slim Down?

Red chili pepper
Jay's photo/Getty Images

Capsaicin, a compound sourced from chili peppers, is said to support weight loss. Proponents claim that this natural substance (which gives chili peppers their spicy kick) can help speed up metabolism and reduce fat tissue, as well as curb overeating by taming appetite.

While scientists have yet to confirm that capsaicin can serve as a weight loss aid, some early studies suggest that this spicy chemical may be of some benefit to those trying to slim down.

Research on Capsaicin and Weight Loss

For a report published in the journal Appetite in 2012, scientists sized up 20 previously published clinical trials (with a total of 563 participants) investigating the potential benefits of capsaicin for weight management.

In their review, the report's authors found some evidence that capsaicin consumption may increase energy expenditure by approximately 50 kcal/day, and that it would produce clinically significant levels of weight loss in one to two years. The report’s authors also observed that regular capsaicin consumption significantly reduced abdominal fat tissue levels and reduced appetite and energy intake.

Here's a look at several other findings from studies on capsaicin and weight loss:

1) Appetite

Upping your capsaicin intake may ease your appetite, according to a 2009 study from the journal Clinical Nutrition. In an experiment involving 27 healthy volunteers, researchers found that consuming a combination of capsaicin and green tea led subjects to feel less hungry and take in fewer calories.

Another 2009 study (published in the European Journal of Nutrition) found that capsaicin may help decrease ghrelin (a hormone involved in promoting hunger).

2) Metabolism

A number of laboratory and animal studies show that capsaicin may help rev up thermogenesis (a biological process involved in burning calories).

However, there is currently a lack of studies testing capsaicin's ability to boost metabolism in humans.

3) Body Fat

Preliminary research indicates that capsaicin may help fight the buildup of body fat. In tests on rats fed a high-fat diet, the authors of a 2010 study from the Journal of Proteome Research found that capsaicin-fed rats lost eight percent of their body weight over the course of the study. What's more, capsaicin appeared to trigger changes in the levels of at least 20 proteins involved in breaking down fats.

Possible Side Effects

Although capsaicin is generally considered safe when consumed in moderation in foods, capsaicin supplements may cause some side effects (such as stomach irritation and aggravation of ulcers and heartburn). In addition, capsaicin supplements may interact with certain medications (including aspirin and blood-thinning drugs) and supplements.

There's also some concern that the use of capsaicin supplements or topical capsaicin may trigger coronary spasm and raise the risk of a heart attack in some people).


It's important to keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get additional tips on using supplements here.

The Takeaway

Due to the lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend capsaicin supplements for weight loss. However, increasing your capsaicin intake by eating chili peppers or chili-pepper-based sauces in moderation may be beneficial to your overall health (partly due to the compound's antioxidant effects). If you're considering the use of capsaicin supplements for weight loss, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.


Galgani JE, Ravussin E. Effect of dihydrocapsiate on resting metabolic rate in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1089-93.

Joo JI, Kim DH, Choi JW, Yun JW. Proteomic analysis for antiobesity potential of capsaicin on white adipose tissue in rats fed with a high fat diet. J Proteome Res. 2010 Jun 4;9(6):2977-87.

Reinbach HC, Smeets A, Martinussen T, Møller P, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Effects of capsaicin, green tea and CH-19 sweet pepper on appetite and energy intake in humans in negative and positive energy balance. Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;28(3):260-5.

Smeets AJ, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. The acute effects of a lunch containing capsaicin on energy and substrate utilisation, hormones, and satiety. Eur J Nutr. 2009 Jun;48(4):229-34.

Whiting S, Derbyshire E, Tiwari BK. Capsaicinoids and capsinoids. A potential role for weight management? A systematic review of the evidence. Appetite. 2012 Oct;59(2):341-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.05.015.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading