What Are Capsaicinoids?

Capsaicinoids are the naturally occurring compounds that cause the burning sensation, or heat, that we get from eating red chili peppers. Chili peppers belong to a plant family called capsicum that has been cultivated for thousands of years as a key ingredient in many regional cuisines as far back as 5000 BC. They are native to Mexico and Central America but are also key components of cuisine throughout South America, India and Southeast Asia.

Peppers have also been used for medicinal purposes throughout history for conditions such as digestive issues, menstrual cramps, headaches, sore throat, itching, alcoholism, motion sickness, toothache, malaria, and yellow fever. Some practitioners also claim they can prevent colds, heart disease and stroke, increase sexual potency and strengthen the heart.

Many of capsicum’s medicinal properties are thought to come from two substances, capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin, which make up 90 percent of the capsaicinoids found in chili peppers.

More recently, capsaicinoids have been shown to help support a weight management regimen and to promote a healthy metabolism, the process our bodies use to produce energy. In combination with other ingredients, capsaicinoids support weight management. They do so through by helping:

  • Increase thermogenesis (the production of heat in the body)
  • Support lipolysis (the use of fat for energy production)

Capsaicinoids Are Well Researched

Capsaicinoids’ various roles in weight management have been well-researched. More than 90 clinical studies around the world have been conducted on men and women of various ages to examine the effect of capsaicinoids on normal weight, overweight and obese individuals. Researchers have looked at doses of 1 to 10 mg/day and in studies of up to 16 weeks. Some of those studies’ findings are outlined in the Metabolism, Thermogenesis and Lipolysis sections of this website.

How Do Capsaicinoids Work ?

Capsaicinoids have several activities in the body. They stimulate thermogenesis, the process of generating heat energy by breaking down our bodies’ main unit of energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Capsaicinoids also stimulate an enzyme called lipase, which breaks down the fat in our bodies so we can use it for fuel. Both of these processes occur in one of our bodies’ two types of fat tissue, brown fat and white fat. Also known as brown adipose tissue (BAT), brown fat is more active than our other type of fat, white fat (white adipose tissue - WAT). These actions suggest that capsaicinoids increase energy expenditure and may help decrease fat mass.