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San Diego, CA - Study: Hot Pepper Compound Could Help Hearts

Published on: April 1, 2012 11:08 PM
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San Diego, CA - The food that inspires wariness is on course for inspiring even more wonder from a medical standpoint as scientists reported this week the latest evidence that chili peppers are a heart-healthy food with potential to protect against the number one cause of death in the developed world. The report was part of the 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, being held in San Diego this week.

The study focused on capsaicin and its fiery-hot relatives, a piquant family of substances termed “capsaicinoids.” The component that gives cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros and other chili peppers their heat, capsaicin already has an established role in medicine in rub-on-the-skin creams to treat arthritis and certain forms of pain. Past research suggested that spicing food with chilies can lower blood pressure in people with that condition, reduce blood cholesterol and ease the tendency for dangerous blood clots to form.

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“Our research has reinforced and expanded knowledge about how these substances in chilies work in improving heart health,” said Zhen-Yu Chen, Ph.D., who presented the study. “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 found, for instance, that capsaicin and a close chemical relative boost 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 a 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 Chen, a professor of food and nutritional science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “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. They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavor pleasant.”

Chen and his colleagues turned to hamsters for the study, animals that serve as stand-ins for humans in research that cannot be done in people. They gave the hamsters 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 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 blocking it, muscles can relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow.

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the US Congress. With more than 164,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, DC, and Columbus, Ohio.


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Read Comments (4)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Apr 02, 2012 at 01:00 AM It's been known for years Says:

Alternative Natural Medicine has reported this for many decades.

Finally western medicines has Finally woken up, to smell the coffee.

It's about time! They are only a few centuries late.

Cayenne Pepper and (Temani) 'Zchug' also have similar and overlapping effects.

2

 Apr 02, 2012 at 10:03 AM WillowTree Says:

Reply to #1  
It's been known for years Says:

Alternative Natural Medicine has reported this for many decades.

Finally western medicines has Finally woken up, to smell the coffee.

It's about time! They are only a few centuries late.

Cayenne Pepper and (Temani) 'Zchug' also have similar and overlapping effects.

My father-in-law does commerce quite often with an Amish family in PA, they have been preaching this to him for years. they have a story of a grandfather that had a serous heart disease and went on some sort of strict hot pepper diet and it disappeared.

3

 Apr 02, 2012 at 11:55 AM Uh Oh! Says:

It's not news to me or to many others who have known this already for years. You can get cayenne in capsules, tinctures, in the vegetable section of your supermarket etc. Of course, since it is cheap, Big Pharma doesn't want anyone to know about this. they'd rather sell expensive dangerous drugs so they can rake in the mega bucks. Maybe it will become illegal to buy ordinary cayenne or plant it because of this "new" information.

4

 Apr 02, 2012 at 01:38 PM FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

Reply to #3  
Uh Oh! Says:

It's not news to me or to many others who have known this already for years. You can get cayenne in capsules, tinctures, in the vegetable section of your supermarket etc. Of course, since it is cheap, Big Pharma doesn't want anyone to know about this. they'd rather sell expensive dangerous drugs so they can rake in the mega bucks. Maybe it will become illegal to buy ordinary cayenne or plant it because of this "new" information.

Do you seriously believe that? Or maybe, just maybe, the scientific "establishment" has different criteria for determining the efficacy of a would-be therapeutic, such as double-blind placebo controlled studies, which are expensive and long.

5

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