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One Major Side Effect of Eating Hot Peppers, Dietitian Says

The whole “metabolism boosting” belief about hot peppers deserves another look. Here's why.

Summer picnics and outings with pals sometimes suggest that the world could be divided into two groups of people: Those who adore spicy foods, and those who don't. If you're someone who's not wild about spice but you've been eating it to rev up your metabolism—or even if you love spice and are convinced that it's helping you get slim—well… it might be time to set down that saucy little Tabasco bottle, and listen up.

If you've ever downed a spicy cuisine like Mexican or Indian (or even put a few drops of hot sauce in your coffee—it's a thing) and thought to yourself, I am totally making my metabolism faster with these foods!, well, you're sort of right… except, not exactly.

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According to Jillian Kubala, MS, RD via Medical News Today, it's true that chili peppers contain capsaicin, which is the compound that gives a hot pepper its kick. Capsaicin can help heat up metabolism, Kubala says, but not in the way you might have imagined. "…[T]he capsaicin in chili peppers can increase metabolic rate when taken in concentrated supplements," Kubala explains. "But the amount of this compound in a typical dish containing chili peppers is unlikely to significantly [affect] metabolism."

bowl of chili peppers

Indeed, researchers in a 2017 study cited an earlier project which had concluded that a 135-milligram capsaicin supplement led to a "significant increase in resting energy expenditure" when it was taken over a three-month period. With cayenne pepper as a common active ingredient in capsaicin supplements (which can often be found in nutrition stores), research has also suggested that turbo-amounts of capsaicin may help fight cancer, inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, and even dementia. The science says you just need that seriously concentrated dose to make it worth your while.

Hey, props for seeking out ways to keep your metabolism active, even when you're not. But, the next time you order a meal extra-spicy, keep in mind that of all the things that might burn after you take a bite, a ton of calories may not be on the list.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy