Can Chili Speed Up Metabolism?
THE FACTS This being the season of dreary, mucky, frigid weather, there is good reason to indulge in foods that carry some extra kick. But is it true, as has long been held, that spicy foods not only heat you up but also speed up the metabolism?
Over the years, various studies have examined the claim and suggested that certain spices can in fact increase metabolic rate by raising body temperature, though to what extent and for how long is unclear. Capsaicin, the compound that gives red chili pepper its powerful kick, creates the largest bump in heat generation, which helps burn more calories immediately after a meal. Black pepper and ginger have similar effects.
Generally, studies have shown that on average a meal containing a spicy dish, like a bowl of chili, can temporarily increase metabolism by about 8 percent over a person’s normal rate, an amount considered fairly negligible. But besides a slight uptick in metabolism, spicy foods may also increase feelings of satiety.
One study by Canadian researchers this year looked at a group of adult men and found that those who were served hot sauce with appetizers before a meal went on to consume on average about 200 fewer calories at lunch and in later meals than their peers who did not have anything with capsaicin. The researchers suggested that capsaicin may work as an appetite suppressant. But take heed: spicy foods can also worsen symptoms of ulcers and heartburn.
THE BOTTOM LINE Research suggests that spicy foods can increase metabolism, though only to a minor extent.