Study links spicy food to weight loss

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Research on spicy food shows why some people like it hot and how chili peppers can burn calories.

Mary-Jon Ludy, assistant professor and conductor of a spicy foods study, found chili peppers can curb people’s appetite and help with weight loss management.

By conducting a study on the effects of different types of chili peppers, Ludy is looking at the weight loss benefits of spicy foods. The study will be ongoing until the end of summer.

“Research shows when you eat chili peppers that it increases the number of calories you burn after a meal,” Ludy said. “For people who aren’t accustomed to eating peppers or chili peppers, having them at a meal decreases how much you will eat at your next meal.”

The names of those who have participated in the study is confidential, Ludy said.

Trey Cantrell, junior, said he enjoys eating spicy foods because he feels cleansed after. While he doesn’t eat spicy food for every meal, he likes adding spice to the bigger meals of the day.

“I enjoy the sensation of it,” Cantrell said. “It brings out the flavor of the food, it makes it more potent.”

The focus of the study is on two chemicals that give the spicy taste of chili peppers in food, Ludy said. The two spices, capsiate and capsaicin, make up the spice of peppers.

“The chemical capsaicin turns on in your mouth so you can feel the burn,” Ludy said. “Capsiate turns on these receptors in your GI tract, in your gut, so you don’t experience the burn.”

Senior Chelsea Rhodes said she thinks spicy foods just taste better. She said she likes to put Frank’s Red Hot Sauce on ramen noodles to add extra flavor, but doesn’t like feeling that her mouth is on fire.

“It makes everything taste better,” Rhodes said. “I don’t look at it as a flavor, it just tastes good.”

Spicy food has been a part of different cultural backgrounds and some people are just accustomed to the spicier taste, Ludy said. Also, she found some research has shown that people who like spicy foods tend to be more adventurous or thrill-seekers.

“If you are a person who is going to bungee jump or sky dive, you probably like spicy foods,” Ludy said.

While there are thrill-seekers out there who appreciate spicy foods, Kevin Lipstraw, a junior, is not one of them.

“It burns going down and I’m just not a big fan of it,” Lipstraw said. “If I did the study I’d probably sweat.”

The study is being hosted to look at appetite ratings and to learn more about weight management. If students are interested in the study, participation pays $65. Email [email protected] for more information.