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Fact Check: Does Spicy Food Really Help You Lose Weight?

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There are lots of claims going around about weight loss. While the fact remains that the best way to lose weight is to switch up to a healthy diet and start getting more exercise, there are those who would look for shortcuts or ways to improve the process.

Among the claims that are often made is that eating spicy food can help you lose weight – but is this true?

We decided to investigate…

The most common claim is that eating spicy food will boost your metabolism by raising your body temperature. In turn, this means that your calories are burnt off much quicker. The science says that the spicy food-based increase in body temperature is associated with a chemical called capsaicin, which is what gets your skin receptors going and makes you feel warm and sweat.

Studies show that this does increase your metabolism, but it seems the impact of this has been exaggerated. In fact, this increase in your metabolism is only by about 8%, and then only temporarily, meaning that the actual effect is minimal at best.

Aside from increasing your metabolism, experts also like to note that spicy food can suppress your appetite, which in turn can aid weight loss. However, this seems a little bit spurious too.

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A study by Purdue University found that those who didn’t eat much spicy food consumed 60 calories fewer when red pepper was added to their soup.

But, let’s be honest here, 60 calories isn’t a great deal, and this was only among those who didn’t eat much spicy food anyway… So, maybe they ate less because they didn’t really like the spicy food, rather than the heat actually suppressing their appetite?

The final piece of evidence that is generally presented is that spicy food helps increase how much fat you burn. Again, it is down to the capsaicin, which has been found to suppress the obesity in high-fat diets. This has so far only been tested on mice, but the early evidence shows that spicy food can help reduce fat gain in high-fat diets.

So, it seems that spicy food may not quite be the magical dieting answer that many are searching for, plus it has been shown that capsaicin is a blood thinner, so can be a problem for those on medication such as warfarin.

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However, this is no reason to ignore spicy food altogether, as there are other benefits that you might like to be aware of…

Capsaicin is being researched for its cancer-fighting properties as it has been found to help in the killing of cancer cells. What’s more, a 7-year study of 20,224 people showed that those who ate spicy food were at a lower risk of premature death – by as much as 14%. However, this was only for those who ate spicy food 6-7 times a week!

So, there it is. Spicy food may not be the miracle diet solution some experts suggest it is – but it can help to a degree, while also showing other health benefits. Perhaps having a curry or some other spicy food may not be such a bad idea after all!


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