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Capsaicin Weight-loss Mechanism Suggested

Researchers in Korea have published new evidence that suggests the mechanisms behind why capsaicin may aid weight loss.

Research led by Professor Jong Won Yun at the Daegu University in South Korea suggests that capsaicin may cause weight loss and stop fat build-up by stimulating the expression of certain fat-degrading proteins and down-regulating other proteins that work to synthesize fat.

The study involved feeding rats a high-fat diet, with one group also being given a treatment of capsaicin. The capsaicin-stimulated rats lost eight percent body weight compared to the non-capsaicin-fed rats on the same diet. Importantly, the new research also showed that capsaicin-fed rats showed changes in expression of over 20 key lipid-processing proteins.

Prof. Yun claims that the changes in body fat observed “provide valuable new molecular insights into the mechanism of the anti-obesity effects of capsaicin.”

The Korean research team also found that glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GPDH) and malate dehydrogenase (MDH) were significantly down-regulated by capsaicin, resulting in a reduction in glycolytic activity and less overall fat synthesis.

The capsaicin also seemed to have a dramatic effect on levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), a gene that is commonly over-expressed in many fat cells. “In this study, the TNF-a gene was significantly up-regulated in high fatty diet rats and their levels were markedly decreased again with capsaicin treatment.”

The research also found an up-regulation of the enzyme NQO1, leading to the conclusion that capsaicin may stimulate the enzyme and that it may have a potential use as a therapeutic target for obesity. Prof. Yun said that the next steps in finding a way to use capsaicin as a safe anti-obesity therapy would be to perform a functional study to fully identify the proteins stimulated by capsaicin, in gene knockout mice.

Journal of Proteome Research 9(6):2977-2987, 2010