Campus News

Dietetics director details the health benefits of spicy foods

Emma Laing, clinical professor and director of dietetics in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, spoke with Lose It! about the part spicy foods can play in helping people lose weight.

Capsaicin is a bioactive compound found in chili peppers. This compound is responsible for the fiery sensation when eating spicy foods. The amount of capsaicin varies depending on the type of pepper.

In recent years, researchers have been intrigued by capsaicin’s impact on metabolism. In a phenomenon called thermogenesis, spicy foods increase the body’s temperature, causing a person to burn more calories.

Some studies even suggest that regular consumption of foods with capsaicin could increase a person’s overall life expectancy by 13%.

With these benefits, Laing warns people to exercise caution.

“Each person’s digestive system is unique, and so is their level of tolerance to spicy foods,” she said.

People who experience gastrointestinal issues, irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn or indigestion may want to limit their intake of spicy foods.

“While spicy foods do not cause the development of gastrointestinal conditions, they can certainly trigger uncomfortable GI symptoms,” Laing said.

Laing also advises against taking high doses of capsaicin dietary supplements as they have been linked to severe health effects.