The main ingredient in chilli peppers could become a hot new diet supplement due to its ability to boost a sluggish metabolism, according to a research team at the University of Wyoming in the US.
According to the researchers, diet supplementation with capsaicin - the component of chilli peppers could eliminate the need to restrict calorie intake.
The researchers who presented their paper at the Biophysical Society's 59th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland said it worked by turning "bad" white fat into "good" brown fat.
"In our bodies, white fat cells store energy and brown fat cells serve as thermogenic (heat produced by burning fat) machinery to burn stored fat," study author Vivek Krishnan, a UW graduate student said.
According to Krishnan, capsaicin as a dietary supplement suppressed the weight gain that came from eating rich foods by maximising the presence of brown fat, whose thermogenic capabilities worked to burn fat even without exercise.
Several studies had pointed to the possibility of white and brown fat converting into each other - often through temperature change. The current study indicated that capsaicin induced the browning of white fat.
According to the researchers capsaicin might stimulate the body to burn energy and create heat (a process known as thermogenesis) – burning off calories in the process.
It worked by activating receptors in the body which set off the process of energy burning.
The receptors are found in which and brown fat cells.
In the body, white fat cells soak up calories and store them as fat. The fat is visible in pot bellies, love handles and wobbly thighs, which dieters aim to lose, Mail Online reported.
It is called 'bad' fat for this reason.
Brown fat, found in small amounts on the shoulders and neck, actually burns fat to heat and was for the reason known as 'good' fat.
The study showed that capsaicin in the diet was able to stimulate a receptor called potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel protein.
Activation of the receptor suppressed obesity associated with a high-fat diet, the researchers found.
According to researchers this was because capsaicin induced 'bad' white fat cells to become energy-burning 'good' brown fat cells.