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Testing the Effect of Pepper continued...

Thirteen of the study participants reported regularly eating spicy food before the study, while 12 didn’t eat hot spice.

Participants were asked to complete a total of six study visits, each separated by a week.

They were also instructed to avoid alcohol, caffeine, or strenuous exercise before their lab tests.

Participants fasted for 12 hours before coming for a lab visit in which their resting energy expenditure, core body and skin temperatures, and appetites were measured.

They were then randomly assigned to eat meals with or without red pepper added. There were three visits with red pepper and three without.

Sometimes the study participants got the pepper in gelatin capsules, so they couldn’t taste it. In other cases, it was mixed with food.

Using a ventilated hood, researchers measured energy expenditure before and after meals, which allowed them to track the calories burned with or without pepper.

Appetite was measured by a questionnaire before the test meal and every 30 minutes after they ate.

At the end of each visit, about four hours after eating the pepper, study participants were given access to as much macaroni and cheese as they wanted.

On average, those who were new to eating spicy foods ate about 66 fewer calories of the macaroni-and-cheese meal on the days they ate red pepper compared to the days they didn’t.

People who were already spicy-food eaters before the study ate the same amount of macaroni and cheese after each visit.

Red Pepper and Weight Loss

“The bottom line is if you like spicy food, enjoy it, but don’t torture yourself because it’s not going to turn you into a size 2,” says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

And the study’s researchers agree.

“We’re not proposing a diet, we’re just saying that incorporating red pepper in your diet works more toward moderation of energy intake and energy balance than working against you,” Mattes says.

“This is a subtle effect, but if it is an easily incorporated change in the diet, even a palatable change in the diet, and it’s combined with other small, easily accommodated adjustments, collectively they add up to caloric savings and energy savings,” he says.

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