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Researchers confirm chilli fires up weight loss

An international team of researchers that includes a Victoria University bioscientist has confirmed that hot chilli added to food can help with weight loss.

With kilo-shedding atop many New Year resolution lists, VU’s Dr Anthony Zulli reports that chilli in the diet can benefit weight loss efforts by kick-starting the body’s metabolism, suppressing appetite, and more.

In a recent article in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Dr Zulli and the team reviewed several studies from around the world that have been conducted on the topic in recent years.

This first-time comprehensive academic review summarises evidence showing the various ways that chilli – or more precisely the chemical capsaicin which gives chilli its heat – can aid in weight loss.

By sprinkling as little as a single meal with the spice, and even when eating a diet of high fatty foods, chilli can:

  • increase fat oxidation (process of breaking down fat) so the body uses more fat as fuel
  • elevate thermogenesis (heat production) and energy expenditure
  • trigger energy-expending brown fat cells that burn stored fat
  • convert fat-storing white fat cells to brown ones
  • reduce appetite, especially in high-fat diets
  • reduce insulin overproduction, and therefore insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes
  • prevent the formation of body fat
  • increase the amount of adrenaline into the blood stream, causing fat to breakdown

But Dr Zulli cautioned that despite the growing body of evidence showing chilli can encourage weight loss, more research is required to determine the ideal dosage in the diet for each individual, and the best way to ingest it.

“Adding chilli to your food can help trigger factors that favour weight loss, but it is not a magic ingredient on its own,” he said.

“Fundamentally, weight loss can only result from a controlled diet and regular physical exercise.”

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