Is Spicy Food Healthier?

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Interviewer: When it comes to the benefit is the greater concentration of capsaicinoids better? And then translating that into food, is hotter, better?

Dr. Bloomer: You know, if you're looking at the end outcome, the simple answer is probably yes. Studies have concluded the low concentrations versus high concentrations, they may see more favorable outcomes with the higher concentration but frankly it's really dependent on the individuals. Some individuals may not tolerate the high concentration well, therefore on paper it may look as though the high oncentration will be better, or the hotter pepper would be better, but if they're not going to be able to consume it on a regular basis, I think that wouldn't really work for them, so they may need to titrate it down to a lower overall dosage. The dosage used in the literature generally range from one to ten milligrams, if we're talking about an encapsulated format. And some whole food studies have actually gone up to 30, 40, 50. I think once study actually used 66 milligrams, when you look at the quantity that would be delivered based on the whole food and the pepper extract. Some people would tolerate that, most people cant tolerate that. So, when you look at the overall Scoville rating and you look at the values that are much higher for the capsaicin, those higher concentrations typically are going to yield greater energy expenditure, but I haven't seen a whole lot of data that have compared, for example, a relatively small dose like two milligrams, versus five, versus ten versus twenty. Most of those studies have used either one dosage or another and have reported on the outcomes. 

Interviewer: Are there people that can't tolerate the supplement form as well because of the heat? Is there problems there?

Dr. Bloomer: We've heard some reports. If you look at the literature and they report potential adverse outcomes, there are some individuals with traditional encapsulated forms who don't tolerate the heat well, they really can't do this on a regular basis and what they experience, essentially, is some sort of GI burn. So, there are some. Other individuals seem to tolerate it better and across time I think despite the outcome, people need to consider whether or not they're one that can actually tolerate this on a regular basis . So, people look at alternative methods of delivery and that's been addressed in some more novel formats of encapsulation where the capsicum extract is embedded within a central core and then coated, so that the coating should theoretically allow for the product to be consumed, ingested, pass through the gut, through the GI tract, and then dissolve, more or less, when it reaches the small intestine. So, that's something that people may consider.
Capsaicin is typically what provides heat in spicy foods. Capsaicin has also show a number of health benefits so it begs the question, is more better? Or is spicier food more healthy? Dr. Richard Bloomer has studied capsaicin and discusses whether or not that is true in a whole food form or a supplement.

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