05 December 2014

Add Some Spice

Pizza Hut’s new 7-Alarm Fire™
specialty pizza has four
different peppers and a fiery
red pepper flavored crust. (from:
Welcome back. Have you heard about Pizza Hut’s new fare? Along with marketing gimmicks like fresh red onions instead of red onions, they’ve added new specialty pizzas and options for base sauce, crust flavor and drizzle topping. And they’ve spiced up the menu. You can now order a 7-Alarm Fire™ pizza or ask for any pizza with, say, a spicy and bold Buffalo sauce, a Fiery Red Pepper crust flavor or maybe a Honey Sriracha drizzle topping.

Coincidentally, last summer, Time magazine’s online newsletter had an article telling me to eat more spicy food. The writer, of course, didn’t know I stopped piling on jalapeños at the salad bar years ago because of heartburn. Well, I think it was heartburn; I was diagnosing from TV ads.

Anyway, the Time article said that spicy food might (1) reduce the risk for tumors, (2) improve one’s sex life and (3) help with weight loss. I figured I’d better check that out, you know, before heading to the closest Pizza Hut.

Tumor Risk

Capsaicinoids are a group of chemicals that are the active ingredient in chili peppers; capsaicin is the most common.

Some of the many, many chili peppers. (digginginthedriftless.com/2011/03/25/the-brave-new-world-of-not-so-hot-peppers/)
The Time article pointed to a recent collaborative study led by researchers from the University of California San Diego. The investigators fed capsaicin to mice that were genetically prone to developing multiple tumors in their gastrointestinal tract. The capsaicin activated a receptor (TRPV1) on cells that lined the mice intestines, triggering a reaction that reduced the risk of colorectal tumors and extended the mice lifespans by over 30 percent.

Future clinical studies still need to address a direct association between the receptor function and human colorectal cancer.

Sex Life

Here, the Time article cited a scientific review by researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada. They found certain foods show the positive effects of natural aphrodisiacs, but that further research was needed to determine doses, potential toxicities and appropriate method of delivery.

While the review was comprehensive, it was published in 2011. Given such an earthshaking topic, I was surprised the Time writer couldn’t find more recent work. I looked and sadly decided to forget this spicy benefit.

The Mayo Clinic, for example, notes that research with spicy and other foods that are thought of as natural aphrodisiacs has shown them to be largely ineffective at producing a sexual response in men or women.

Last April, the Food and Drug Administration stated, “Labeling claims for aphrodisiacs for OTC [over the counter] use are either false, misleading, or unsupported by scientific data.”

Weight Loss

The Time writer’s reliance on older research carried over to weight-loss, citing studies from 2010 and 2011. Though aphrodisiacs are a hotter topic, I suspected there would be more recent work on weight loss. I was correct; however, the little I found (see P.S.) supported earlier studies that capsaicinoids could indeed play a beneficial role in weight management.

We typically eat spicy foods in small quantities and other foods will likely have a greater effect on weight loss; but two areas of potential benefit of capsaicinoids are increased energy expenditure and reduced appetite. Long-term, randomized trials with larger numbers of participants are needed.

Wrap Up

The Time article also cited a food industry report that more consumers, especially those between 18 and 34, are opting for hot or spicy foods.

You’re aware that restaurants offering cuisines, such as those from Mexico, China, India or Thailand, have always included hot and spicy dishes, yet you may not be aware that many fast-food restaurants have lately added spicy sandwiches or the like. I’ll go out on a limb and posit that the shift in consumer demand, not health benefits, is why Pizza Hut made the move.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope I’ve spiced up your life.


Capsaicin isn’t just added to food.
(photo from multiple websites)
Time article on spicy food: time.com/3063763/3-reasons-you-should-eat-more-spicy-food/
Tumor risk study in Journal of Clinical Investigation and press release:
Aphrodisiac study in Food Research International, review article and later notes from Mayo Clinic and FDA:
Time-cited studies on weight loss:
Later research on weight loss in Appetite and PLOS One and summary article:
Time article on fast-food trends: 

No comments:

Post a Comment