Chilli pepper health benefit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
march 24 2014

The chilli pepper, most often just called chilli, is the fruit of the plant Capsicum usually referring to the smaller, hotter types of capsicum. The mild larger types are called bell pepper. You can also find smaller versions of pepper in grocery stores now that do not have a hot taste. Sometimes you will see chilli pepper spelled as chili pepper or chile pepper. Chile peppers are widely used as spices or vegetables in cuisine. Capsaicin is the pungent compound of chilli peppers.

Health benefit of chili pepper consumption
Chilli has antioxidant properties. Regular consumption of chilli increases the resistance of blood lipids to oxidation and may slightly decrease insulin levels after a meal.

Chilli pepper and blood lipids
Effects of daily ingestion of chilli on serum lipoprotein oxidation in adult men and women.
Br J Nutr. 2006. School of Human Life Sciences, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tasmania 7250, Australia.
Laboratory studies have shown that the resistance of isolated LDL-cholesterol or linoleic acid to oxidation is increased in incubations with chilli extracts or capsaicin--the active ingredient of chilli. It is unknown if these in vitro antioxidative effects also occur in the serum of individuals eating chilli regularly. The present study investigated the effects of regular consumption of chilli on in vitro serum lipoprotein oxidation and total antioxidant status (TAS) in healthy adult men and women. In a randomised cross-over study, twenty-seven participants (thirteen men and fourteen women) ate 'freshly chopped chilli' blend (30 g/d; 55% cayenne chilli) and no chilli (bland) diets, for 4 weeks each. Use of other spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, garlic and mustard, was restricted to minimum amounts. At the end of each dietary period serum samples were analysed for lipids, lipoproteins, TAS and Cu-induced lipoprotein oxidation. Lag time (before initiation of oxidation) and rate of oxidation (slope of propagation phase) were calculated. There was no difference in the serum lipid, lipoproteins and TAS at the end of the two dietary periods. In the whole group, the rate of oxidation was significantly lower after the chilli diet, compared with the bland diet. In women, lag time was higher after the chilli diet, compared with the bland diet. In conclusion, regular consumption of chilli for 4 weeks increases the resistance of serum lipoproteins to oxidation.

Chilli Pepper and Arterial Function
The effect of 4-week chilli supplementation on metabolic and arterial function in humans.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006; 1School of Human Life Sciences, University of Tasmania, Launceston, TAS, Australia.
To investigate the effects of regular chilli ingestion on some indicators of metabolic and vascular function.Design:A randomized cross-over dietary intervention study. Launceston, Australia.Subjects:Healthy free-living individuals. Thirty-six participants (22 women and 14 men), aged 46+/-12 (mean+/-s.d.) years; BMI 26.4+/-4.8 kg/m(2), consumed 30 g/day of a chilli blend (55% cayenne chilli) with their normal diet (chilli diet), and a bland diet (chilli-free) for 4 weeks each. Metabolic and vascular parameters, including plasma glucose, serum lipids and lipoproteins, insulin, basal metabolic rate, blood pressure, heart rate, augmentation index (AIx; an indicator of arterial stiffness), and subendocardial-viability ratio (SEVR; a measure of myocardial perfusion), were measured at the end of each diet. In a sub-study, during week 3 of each dietary period, the vascular responses of 15 subjects to glyceryl-trinitrate (GTN) and salbutamol were also studied. For the whole group, there were no significant differences between any of the measured parameters when compared at the end of the two dietary periods. When analysed separately, men had a lower resting heart rate and higher SEVR at the end of the chilli diet than the bland diet. In the sub-study, baseline AIx on the chilli diet was lower than on the bland diet, but there was no difference in the effects of GTN and salbutamol between the two diets. Four weeks of regular chilli consumption has no obvious beneficial or harmful effects on metabolic parameters but may reduce resting heart rate and increase effective myocardial perfusion pressure time in men.

Chili Pepper Pain Receptor
Tarantulas and chili peppers may not appear to have anything in common but an encounter with either the spider or the plant can be a painful experience. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco have discovered that they use similar tactics to frighten off predators by causing pain. The venom of tarantula Psalmopoeus cambridgei, which is a native species in Trinidad and Tobago, contains toxins that trigger the same pain receptor on nerve cells throughout the body as hot chili peppers. Capsaicin, the main pungent ingredient in hot chili peppers, sets it off.

Cultivated thousands of years ago
Fossil evidence shows prehistoric people from southern Peru up to the Bahamas were cultivating varieties of chilies millennia before Columbus' arrival brought the chili spice to world cuisine. The earliest traces so far are from southwestern Ecuador, where families fired up meals with homegrown chili peppers about 6,100 years ago.