Capsaicin, The Compound Naturally Present In Hot Peppers Such As Cayenne, Helps Maintain Healthy Hearts
Scientists have reported the latest evidence that chili peppers are a heart-healthy food with potential to protect against the No. 1 cause of death in the world. The report was presented at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) held in San Diego.
The study focused on capsaicin and its fiery-hot constituents, substances called “capsaicinoids.” These are the natural substances that give cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros and other chili peppers their intemse heat. Capsaicin already has an established role in medicine in topical ointments, rub-on-the-skin creams to treat arthritis and pain.
Previous research suggested that spicing food with chilies can lower blood pressure in people, reduce blood cholesterol and ease the tendency for dangerous blood clots to form.
“Our research has reinforced and expanded knowledge about how these substances in chilies work in improving heart health,” said researchers “We now have a clearer and more detailed portrait of their innermost effects on genes and other mechanisms that influence cholesterol and the health of blood vessels. It is among the first research to provide that information.”
The team of scientists found that capsaicin substances boosts heart health in two ways. They lower cholesterol levels by reducing accumulation of cholesterol in the body and increasing its breakdown and excretion in the feces. They also block action of the gene that makes arteries contract, restricting the flow of blood to the heart and other organs. The blocking action allows more blood to flow through blood vessels.
“We concluded that capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving a range of factors related to heart and blood vessel health,” said the food and nutritional scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and emphasized “But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chilies to an excess. A good diet is a matter of balance. And remember, chilies are no substitute for the prescription medications proven to be beneficial.”
The researchers fed laboratory subjects high-cholesterol diets, divided them into groups, and supplemented each group’s food with either no capsaicinoids (the control group) or various amounts of capsaicinoids. The scientists then analyzed the effects.
In addition to reducing total cholesterol levels in the blood, capsaicinoids reduced levels of the so-called “bad” cholesterol (which deposits into blood vessels), but did not affect levels of the so-called “good” cholesterol. The team found indications that capsaicinoids may reduce the size of deposits that already have formed in blood vessels, narrowing arteries in ways that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Capsaicinoids also blocked the activity of a gene that produces cyclooxygenase-2, a substance that makes the muscles around blood vessels constrict. By effectively blocking the gene, muscles can relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow.
Story Source: Chinese University of Hong Kong
Journal Reference: American Chemical Society (ACS) (2012) Hot pepper compound could help hearts.