Myth: Spicy food speeds up your metabolism
Many people believe they have difficulty losing weight because they have a ‘slow metabolism’. So it’s comforting to think that breaking out in a sweat over a bowl of chilli is boosting your metabolic rate, thanks to its capsaicin (the chemical compound that gives it the heat). Researchers have found that capsaicin can boost heat generation and thus your metabolic rate, which means you burn more energy. But it’s all pretty short term. And the studies are few and small (and some of them used supplements, not real food!). If you eat chilli often and don’t go back for seconds and say no thanks to the sour cream, the benefits may add up. But there’s no serious evidence that eating chilli (or black pepper or other spicy foods) work as long-term metabolic boosters that will help you burn excess fat.
Look at real life. They eat a lot of chilli in Mexico and that country has a major problem with overweight and obesity—although maybe it would be a bigger problem without the chilli benefits.
The good news is that boosting your metabolism is within your reach, but there’s no quick fix. It’s the usual suspects: healthy eating (at regular intervals) and moving more, including some resistance exercise (yes, weights) to get yourself some muscle power.
Long story short Chilli and other spicy foods may briefly boost your metabolic rate, but for long-term benefits you’ve got to eat healthy, move more and build muscle.
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist and author of Food Myths available in bookshops and online and from www.greatideas.net.au