Thursday, January 25, 2007
There's more to hot sauce than just heat
A little restaurant I know in Silver City, New Mexico, serves the best enchiladas ever: stacked blue tortillas, smothered in fresh green chilies and cheese. They're so hot they make my husband's bald spot sweat! I literally cry when I eat them, but my tears are tears of joy. For me, the hotter the better! So when I read about a diet that helped a doctor lose 70 pounds by just sipping on hot sauce, it got my attention.

Dr. Spiro Antoniades, an orthopedic surgeon from Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, came up with the idea to down a shot of hot sauce every time he got a craving for something unhealthy, like doughnuts or cookies. After a while, he had punished himself to the point that those goodies just didn't seem very appetizing anymore. And guess what? His plan worked. Antoniades slimmed down in less than a year. Today he's a health nut, runs every day and watches his food intake, all because of a little bottle of heat. So many of his colleagues asked about the diet that he's actually published a book. There's no science to it. It's really simple behavior modification.

But that doesn't mean that scientists aren't interested in hot sauce. It's really the chilies, which are the main ingredient in the sauce. Researchers are finding that capsaicin, the compound that gives chili and cayenne their zing, has a lot of health benefits. For centuries, folk medicine practitioners used capsaicin to aid digestion, fight infection and stimulate the kidneys, lungs and heart. Capsaicin has even been put into topical creams that soothe sore muscles and joints. Now researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Public Health are looking at capsaicin's ability to mimic the type of pain you experience when you have arthritis. Researchers theorize that if doctors treat the pain that capsaicin causes in your mouth, they can treat the pain that arthritis causes. And, theoretically, the painkillers would be natural, with few side effects. And they would actually go directly to the pain, and alleviate the discomfort longer.

But be careful. Capsaicin can also be harmful. Take a lot of it, and you can actually send your body into shock. Research on capsaicin's bad side is still in the early stages, but scientists have found that it can cause some tough side effects: abnormal blood clotting, blistering of the skin and severe diarrhea. Long-term use can lead to kidney and liver damage, so go easy.

Has hot sauce ever helped or hurt your health? Let me know.
Dr. Gupta,
In your blog you state, "There's no science to it. It's really simple behavior modification." Please take note that behavior modification is a science. Please do not discredit my science and I will not discredit yours.
I have been using my Indian George's Heat Treating relish ( from Habanero's) for years for my sore joint and muscle aches.
Spicey hot food(including hot green chillies) is also very good to relieve sinus congestion and sinus head ache.
very interesting but i'd be afraid of too much hot sauce having an adverse effect on my stomach lining
Several years ago I had painful shingles (for the second time) and my doctor prescribed a drug containing capsaicin for the pain. It worked! I will look forward to being able to use it for my arthritis -- hopefully soon. Regarding hot sauce: My entire family eats it regularly except me. I am the only one with a weight problem so maybe that's why.
Gosh I know. Let's just strap those electric dog collars on obese people and zap them whenever they reach for some cake.

Have you ever known anyone that put the sour juice on their fingertips to keep from biting their nails? It doesn't work. If you want something bad enough.....
When I have diffuse muscle and joint pain that strongly resembles fibromyalgia (but isn't, because the pressure points for fibro don't hurt), or when I have severe menstrual cramps, I head for the nearest Thai restaurant and order something at hotter-than-thai hot. Hot as in a volcano would be put to shame hot. Within 30 minutes the pain is gone, I've had a nice meal and I'm on my way.
Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chile peppers, toxic? I just finished digging in PubMed for information on that subject. Please provide citations (I couldn't find a single paper on the drastic effects you mentioned) or retract the comments.

One paper mentioned transient hypotension in dogs, but not in any way sufficient to provoke syncope or any signs of shock. Nephrotoxic effects? No data. Hepatotoxic effects? The ONE paper I saw indicated a protective effect of capsaicin in the presence of other compounds toxic to the liver.

There were a few indications of epithelial tissue damage with chronic high-dose application in Wistar rats, but again, this isn't on the level any human would be likely to use.
I am from Germany and have long known the benefits of Hot Sauce and "peppers". My grandmother used to eat at least a jar of Jalepenos a week. She suffered from Rheumathoid Arthritis and it seemed to help her pain and her digestion. I am now also eating any pepper I can get my hands on. At least one per meal. I have no side effects as of yet, 20 years and counting!
In my life so far, a day has not passed without taking either green or red chilli peppers in raw or fried form. I am 37 yrs. I could get the benefits from it. I eat 3-4 green chilli peppers almost every 3 days (raw) with food. I think I have that genetical inclination that runs in my family for peppers. The positive effects I have is perfect bowel movement. To alleviate the effect of the heat, I also take some butter in the rice I eat.

What I felt and we believe is that,
definitely, taking chilli peppers according to your body make up will help in your digestion process. In my family almost everybody consumes according to their capacities.
studies have been done on adverse effects on stomach. negative, aspirin is much worse, and in fact my doc said hots are good for the GI
I've been following the You on a Diet plan and it also suggests adding hot peppers to what you eat...I find that it does make me feel sated faster than the same food without the heat (I use red pepper flakes in tomato sauce for instance to put on my whole-wheat pasta)
What about the possibility of giving yourself GERD or acid reflux. It seems like downing shots of hot sauce is just asking for a hole in your esophagus.
Spicy foods and chilies burn calories through the thermogenic effect, which could have helped his weight loss.

I have heard of pills or some drug people can take that makes them nauseous when they smoke, eventually conditioning themselves to have an aversion to cigarettes.
One Friday night, I had discovered that I had pink-eye. Knowing that I could not see a Dr. until Monday or later, I sliced into a fresh jalepeno and removed a single seed. I squeezed the seed between my thumb and index fingers to extract some of the oil. I then pulled downward, the skin lining the bottom of my eye to expose the meaty redness irritated by the bacteria. One fell swoop of my finger released the oil on my eye. It was painful for 5 minutes ... but I don't think the bacteria cared for it any more than I did. I flushed my eye with warm water and the pink-eye did not return.
I went to Mexico in 1992. I'd never eaten anything hot--I hated the stuff. I hadn't ever even eaten salsa at that point. Because my son said I wouldn't have fun because I wouldn't try things, I ended up doing just that.
Prior to going to Mexico, I had had a stoamch problem for 5 or 6 months that would wake me up with chills, discernible fever, and pain in the epi-gastric region. Tests showed nothing.
I went out to eat with a couple of friends and tried the tiniest amount of salsa on a cheese quesedilla--which turned out to be the hottest salsa the restaurant had instead of mild, as I had been told. The kids told me they could see steam coming out of my mouth & ears! Well, so to speak. Amazingly, whatever it was in the freshly made salsa--capsaicin plus whatever--cured my stomach. I have never had the chills, fever, pain associated with the stomach thing again! And I love hot stuff now!
Dr. Gupta,

Your information that capsaicin is harmful is both inaccurate and misleading. Only someone foolish enough to attempt to ingest pure biochemical-grade capsaicin (at 16 million Scoville) could hope to do themselves harm. Otherwise for the rest of us that just eat hot sauce and chile peppers, all you can really hurt is your pride if you eat something too spicy for your tolerance. I've search for the other so-called "side effects" of capsaicin, and I can't find them either. I suggest you get your facts straight as well. Chile peppers, with all their wonderful capsaicin, have been around for thousands of years, and I've never run across a documented case of someone suffering any of the effects you mentioned. As a physician myself, I try not to give my patients inaccurate or misleading info. Hopefully, you will review your information and make the changes so you are not doing the same.
Hi Doc,

Just a quick note that Laval University, and Maastrict University, as well as a Japanese University I cannot name at this time, have all done extensive studies on the effects of capsaicin on obesity.

Fwiw, I also have to take issue with the suggestion that capsaicin is toxic.

Whereas it is true that chemically extracted concentrations of capsacinoids applied to the skin or ingested, could cause toxic reactions, I would hope that as a Doctor, you would agree that extreme concentration of any healthful compound could be toxic. Even vitamin C is toxic in massive doses, isn't it?
This type of experiment needs to be thought thorough, Spiro Antoniades is a doctor and knows what he was doing. Hot sauce with extensive amount can definitely create some problem in your digestion process, and yes it might cause serious side effects on skin and severe heart burns.
I never knew why each time I experienced an stomach upset I would eat something with hot sauce. I learned upon doing so, my upset stomach will quickly go away...I just started doing this on my own. Now I know why! Thanks for the information.
I think capsasin is a simple, affordable, natural way to reduce anything from artheritic to sinus discomfort. I have long suffered from sinus infections and have artheritis in my shoulder, knees, neck and back. I have experienced a wonderful increase in mobility and no more swelling or pain in any area. I even have stopped taking over the counter pain meds. No side effects. There is nothing like the opening up the nasal cavities with a hot chili pepper. I'm also aware of the fact that it will increase your metabolism.
I have had a dash of tabasco source every day for the past 3 years and have not been sick once. I'm not sure if it is a coincidence or not, but I'm going to ride out this "hot streak."
It's pretty lame to post something negative that can affect people's businesses and hobbies. If they're going to post "medical" and "scientific" information, they should show sources so that intelligent people can verify for themselves and make their own decisions.

Most of the responses on that blog were pretty unintelligent, however, and very few to the point.

One thing I'd like to note is that Dr. Gupta didn't post that entry. His blog was used, and therefore he should follow up on these things, but a non-doctor made the post, which could be the cause of it being inaccurate and inflammatory.

I think it's more of a disclaimer than anything else, as posting a blog encouraging people to use hot sauce as a weight loss tool will invariably bring out the handful of fools who chug it until something really bad happens and then try to sue CNN.

The way it's worded as practically factual in the same paragraph stating research is "in the early stages" leaves a statement such as "long term use can cause liver or kidney damage" looking a bit ridiculous.
How have we made the determination that liver or kidney damage can result from long term ingestion of products containing capsaicin? Are we only studying people who have lived generally healthy lives, but ingest capsaicin regularly and many of them are suffering from renal failure that is not likely to come from any other source?
I think others would agree that there are many chile pepper afficionados that have died in car accidents over the years. Are we to conclude that capsaicin can impair your ability to drive a motor vehicle?
I think it more likely that a person who has habits of excess is more likely to have several other more credible causes for liver or kidney damage, no? Are we even talking about hot sauces at this point? Or are we onto capsaicin itself in the form of supplements? If so, how long has the capsaicin suppliment been around in order to allow for long term usage.
What does 'long-term use' mean? They aren't saying long term abuse or excess. The statement seems to imply the ingestion of any level of capsaicin in a regular manner through the course of a person's lifetime will prove deadly. That's some pretty heavy phrasing.
It's well-known that chile peppers have the "ability to kill parasites in the gastro-intestinal tract". I am imagining that anyone but a complete dolt could surmise that the unexpected mass extermination of a tract full of parasites could maybe cause a disruption in the system, just as antibiotics have a similar effect on the GI system. Maybe I'm wrong. It is, however, something one might consider prior to posting on a medical blog that a popular food item could be a deadly toxin. Or maybe not.
Quite possibly, Val Wadas-Willingham has no qualms about causing potentially major trauma to the all of the businesses who rely on the peppers indicted in her flagrant denouncement framed as a friendly warning.
I don't see why any American business person would feel the need to bring a lawsuit against CNN just because unfounded and unsupported suppositions could cost them their livelihood, so I'm sure that helps to explain why Val was so cavalier in her treatment of the subject.
If some hot sauce kills bacteria, which ones?

b/c I would like to do a science project on which hot sauce kills the most bacteria and since I started this, I havent really noticed that there was even harmful bacteria in food.

I know of the vibrio vulnifus and hot peppers but is that all that we should be aware of when it comes to hot sauce?
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