Sensory and gastrointestinal satiety effects
of capsaicin on food intake
MS Westerterp-Plantenga1*, A Smeets1and MPG Lejeune1
1Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
BACKGROUND: Decreased appetite and increased energy expenditure after oral consumption of red pepper has been shown.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present study was to assess the relative oral and gastrointestinal contribution to capsaicin-induced
satiety and its effects on food intake or macronutrient selection.
METHODS: For 24 subjects (12 men and 12 women; age: 35710y; BMI: 25.072.4kg/m2; range 20–30), 16h food intake was
assessed four times during 2 consecutive days by offering macronutrient-specific buffets and boxes with snacks, in our laboratory
restaurant. At 30min before each meal, 0.9g red pepper (0.25% capsaicin; 80000 Scoville Thermal Units) or a placebo was
offered in either tomato juice or in two capsules that were swallowed with tomato juice. Hunger and satiety were recorded using
Visual Analogue Scales.
RESULTS: Average daily energy intake in the placebo condition was 11.571.0MJ/d for the men and 9.470.8MJ/d for the
women. After capsaicin capsules, energy intake was 10.470.6 and 8.370.5MJ/d (Po0.01); after capsaicin in tomato juice, it
was 9.970.7 and 7.970.5MJ/d, respectively (compared to placebo: Po0.001; compared to capsaicin in capsules: Po0.05). En
% from carbohydrate/protein/fat (C/P/F): changed from 4673/1571/3972 to 5274/1571/3372 en% (Po0.01) in the men,
and from 4874/1472/3873 to 4274/1472/3273 en% (Po0.01) in the women, in both capsaicin conditions. Satiety (area
under the curve) increased from 689 to 757mmh in the men and from 712 to 806mmh in the women, both (Po0.01). Only in
the oral exposure condition was the reduction in energy intake and the increase in satiety related to perceived spiciness.
CONCLUSIONS: In the short term, both oral and gastrointestinal exposure to capsaicin increased satiety and reduced energy
and fat intake; the stronger reduction with oral exposure suggests a sensory effect of capsaicin.
International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 682–688. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802862
Published online 21 December 2004
Keywords: energy intake; sensory satiety; postingestive satiety; macronutrients composition; cephalic phase response
The increasing incidence of obesity is a recognized medical
problem in developed countries.1Obesity is a major factor
for a number of comorbidities such as coronary heart
diseases, hypertension, noninsulin-dependent diabetes mel-
litus, pulmonary dysfunction, osteoarthritis and certain
types of cancer.2–4
The main factor causing the development of obesity is a
positive energy balance through a decreased physical activity
and increased energy intake, especially fat intake. Weight
loss and loss of body fat can thus be achieved by reducing
energy intake and/or increasing energy expenditure.
Treatment of obesity is beneficial in that even modest
weight loss reduces the risk for mortality and morbidity in
obese subjects and leads to beneficial health effects.5–7
Modest weight loss is a realistic goal for most subjects5,7
and can be achieved by reducing energy intake. However,
weight-maintenance after weight loss has rarely been shown,
and weight regain usually occurs,8–12indicating that subjects
are not able to change their eating and activity behavior
adequately.13Interventions aimed to improve weight loss
and weight maintenance and to prevent the development of
obesity in already overweight subjects are therefore neces-
sary. A rapidly growing therapeutic area, largely embraced by
the general public, is the use of natural herbal supplements.
One of these agents is capsaicin, the pungent principle of hot
red pepper. Capsaicin has been reported to reduce adiposity
in rats, which can be partly explained by the enhancing
effects on energy and lipid metabolism via catecholamine
secretion from the adrenal medulla through sympathetic
activation of the central nervous system.14,15In a series of
Received 3 August 2004; revised 29 September 2004; accepted 30
September 2004; published online 21 December 2004
*Correspondence: Dr MS Westerterp-Plantenga, Department of Human
Biology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, Maastricht 6200 MD, The
International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 682–688
& 2005 Nature Publishing Group All rights reserved 0307-0565/05 $30.00
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Capsaicin: sensory and gastrointestinal satiety
MS Westerterp-Plantenga et al
International Journal of Obesity