Capsaicinoids – the compounds that give chili peppers their ‘heat’ – may lower cholesterol levels and boost heart health, suggests new data from a study with hamsters.
Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong report that supplementing a high fat diet of hamsters with capsaicinoids resulted in lower total blood cholesterol levels, but did not impact HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
The chili pepper compounds were also associated with decreased levels of compounds linked to inflammation, including and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2), according to findings published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
From hamsters to humans
While no human data is available to support the potential cholesterol-lowering activity of capsaicin and related compounds, the doses used in this may be extrapolated to those in humans, said the researchers.
Estimations from Mexico reveal that chili pepper consumption may reach 20 grams per person per day, which is equivalent to 0.5 to 4 milligrams of capsaicinoids per kilogram of body weight per day day, said the Chinese researchers.
“In the present study, LD group was given a diet containing 0.010 % capsaicinoids, which was equivalent to 7 mg/kg body weight/day.
“In this regard, the concentration of capsaicinoids used in the present study could achieve its cholesterol-lowering and vascular activity under the normal physiological conditions if the data in hamsters could be extrapolated to those in humans.”
The Hong Kong-based scientists divided lab hamsters into five groups and fed them a high-cholesterol diet supplemented with 0, 0.010, 0.015, 0.020, and 0.030% capsaicinoids for six weeks.
Results showed that total cholesterol, triglycerides, and non-HDL cholesterol were significantly reduced by addition of capsaicinoids to the diet, compared with the control group. However, the effects of the chili pepper compounds were not related to a specific dose.
The results also suggested that capsaicinoids decreased cholesterol absorption, as evidenced by the decrease in the ratio of campesterol/cholesterol.
Supplementing the diets with capsaicinoids was found to inhibit the expression of COX-2, they added. “Up-regulation of COX-2 was associated with endothelial dysfunction, atherosclerotic plaque, and inflammation in hypertension and diabetes.”
Source: European Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0344-2
“Capsaicinoids lower plasma cholesterol and improve endothelial function in hamsters”
Authors: Y.T. Liang, X-Y. Tian, J.N. Chen, C. Peng, K.Y. Ma, et al.