The claim that spicy foods can increase your metabolism is not a new one. A little online research will show numerous sources making claims that spicy foods increase metabolism enough that they can actually help you to lose weight. Is this true? Does spicy affect metabolism? Will adding a little hot sauce to your food have you shedding pounds? Let’s take a closer look.
Will spicy food increase your metabolism? Yes, to a point.
There is some research that suggests that yes, spicy food will give your metabolism a kick in the pants, so to speak. But the question has always been how much of an improvement can you expect to see? The answer seems to be not much of one – perhaps an 8% lift, which is unimpressive.
There’s a catch…
Still, the effect is there and you can benefit from it if you eat chili peppers regularly but only up to a point. The sad fact is that over time the effect on your metabolism will decrease. The more you get into the habit of eating spicy food, you build up a tolerance and the less of an effect they will have on your metabolism.
Capsaicin is the compound that makes chili peppers hot and it has more of an effect on your metabolism than any of the other compounds that make spices hot; however, other hot spices deliver a milder version of the same effect. For example, both ginger and black pepper will also boost metabolism.
The effect of spicy food on metabolism
Spicy foods work by increasing your body temperature. The process by which the heat is produced is called thermogenesis. It is the same reason that your body temperature goes up and you break a sweat when you go for a run or a brisk walk. Your metabolism speeds up as your body burns calories to generate heat.
Thermogenesis does break down some body fat. One theory about how capsaicin affects metabolism has to do with fat. Researchers believe that it can change one type of body fat to another. Capsaicin can cause white fat — the stored energy in our bodies — to convert to brown fat, which is a kind of fat that breaks down the white fat to generate heat.
It is important to note that while the effects of spicy food are real, they are also temporary. For a truly permanent change to your metabolism, you would need to change your genes since we inherit most of what determines how our metabolism works. Eating spicy food will not change your metabolism permanently; in fact, the effects are relatively short-lived.
Will spicy food help you lose weight?
Because the effect on metabolism is so minor, you probably won’t be able to get rid of body fat via metabolic improvements from eating chili peppers. That doesn’t mean that spicy foods are completely useless for combating weight gain. Studies have found that people who consume large amounts of chili peppers also take in fewer calories. The reduced caloric intake may indicate that hot peppers have some value as appetite suppressants.
So the truth about spicy food and metabolism is actually a little more complex than it might seem at first. There is no magic bullet for weight loss, but eating foods with spice can help to a modest extent.