Cayenne Pepper is found in many fat burning supplements, and it is also used in cooking to flavor food. Capsaicin is the active constituent of cayenne pepper that gives it its spicy flavor. Capsaicin is also responsible for most of the supposed health benefits of cayenne pepper. The supposed benefits of cayenne pepper include metabolic enhancement, antioxidant effects, better cardiovascular function, and stimulation of digestion.
Cayenne pepper has been claimed to enhance metabolism and therefore fat burning by increasing thermogenesis, or production of heat in the body through calorie burning. A human study done on cayenne pepper showed that when it was added to a meal, it increased fat oxidation (fat burning). (2) Another study showed that when added to the first course of a meal, participants consumed less calories later on showing an appetite suppressing effect of cayenne pepper. (3) One more study gave participants a capsaicin supplement one hour before exercise, and the participants experienced increased lipolysis (fat breakdown) during the exercise. (1)
The antioxidant benefits of cayenne pepper come not only from the capsaicin in cayenne pepper, but also from its various other constituents. One study showed that capsaicinoids “show remarkable antioxidant activity”. (4) The other constituents of cayenne including vitamin E and vitamin C also exhibit antioxidant activity.
Cayenne pepper has been used for many years to improve digestion, and this benefit of cayenne pepper is well known. The digestion improving benefits of cayenne pepper are probably due to the fact that it suppresses gastric acid output, which may increase its secretion. (5)
As far as improving cardiovascular function goes, there is not much for human studies, and very little for animal studies. The increase in body heat caused by cayenne pepper increases circulation temporarily, which could theoretically have cardiovascular benefits. For, now I will just have to say that more research needs to be done in this area before a conclusion can be reached on the cardiovascular health benefits of cayenne pepper.
The metabolism enhancing and appetite suppressing benefits of cayenne pepper suggest that it is useful to supplement with during a cutting phase, especially before meals and before exercise. The antioxidant benefits of cayenne pepper are a nice bonus too. Antioxidants are always welcome in the diet and supplementation programs of physique and performance athletes, because training actually increases the levels of free radicals in the body. Considering it’s very low cost, cayenne pepper may be worth throwing in during a cutting phase, but there are probably better options currently available for increasing thermogenesis and decreasing appetite.
1. Shin KO, & Moritani T. (2007). Alterations of autonomic nervous activity and energy metabolism by capsaicin ingestion during aerobic exercise in healthy men. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. 53(2), 124-32.
2. Yoshioka M, St-Pierre S, Suzuki M, & Tremblay A. (1998). Effects of red pepper added to high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals on energy metabolism and substrate utilization in Japanese women. The British Journal of Nutrition. 80(6), 503-10.
3. Yoshioka M, St-Pierre S, Drapeau V, Dionne I, Doucet E, Suzuki M, & Tremblay A. (1999). Effects of red pepper on appetite and energy intake. The British Journal of Nutrition. 82(2), 115-23.
4. Rosa A, Deiana M, Casu V, Paccagnini S, Appendino G, Ballero M, & Dessí MA. (2002). Antioxidant activity of capsinoids. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50(25), 7396-401.
5. Imatake K, Matsui T, & Moriyama M. (2009). The effect and mechanism of action of capsaicin on gastric acid output. Journal of Gastroenterology. 44(5), 396-404.