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Dieters Get Boost From Hot Pepper-Like Compound in Study

April 28, 2010 (Anaheim, Calif.) -- Adding some spicy hot peppers to a healthy meal isn't a magic bullet, but it may help you burn a few extra calories and a bit more fat, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles tested a compound related to the capsaicin found in hot peppers to see if it could give dieters a boost. It's called dihydrocapsiate or DCT, and it's not spicy hot like jalapenos.

They wanted to see if the pepper-like compound, by heating up the body, could translate to better calorie and fat burning.

"DCT caused an increase in calories burned after a test meal,'' study author David Heber, MD, PhD, founding director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, tells WebMD. The boost, however, was modest -- translating to about 100 extra calories a day for a 110-pound woman and 200 extra calories for a 200-pound man, he says. Fat burning was up a bit, too.

The findings were presented Tuesday at EB2010, the annual Experimental Biology meeting here.

This latest research follows other studies finding hot peppers may boost metabolism or dampen appetite.

Peppers for Weight Loss Study

Although DCT is structurally related to capsaicin from hot peppers, it doesn't give that "bite," says Amy Lee, MD, a research fellow at UCLA who presented the findings at the meeting.

The researchers started with 51 men and women but finished with 33, after accounting for dropouts, Lee says. All were obese and on a liquid meal replacement regimen that had just 800 calories daily. The low-calorie allotment was a primary reason for dropping out, she says.

Dieters were randomly assigned to take either a placebo capsule or DCT in a 3 milligram or 9 milligram dose, without knowing which they were taking.

At the start of the study, and four weeks later, the researchers measured the dieters' metabolic rate and their energy expenditure (or heat production) after a test meal of 400 liquid calories.

People on the 9 milligram capsule had an increase in energy expenditure or heat production and increased fat burning, compared to those taking placebo, Lee says.

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