Blood sugar and spice

Eating cayenne pepper with meals may mitigate a hormonal response that’s linked to diabetes, a trial of two diets suggests.

To compare the effects on insulin of different patterns of chili pepper consumption, researchers at the University of Tasmania in Launceston, Australia, conducted a study in 36 healthy adults who didn’t typically eat chili peppers. Excess insulin production can presage diabetes.

For 4 weeks of the study, each volunteer ate his or her usual bland diet, except for one chili-laden meal at the end of the period. For another 4 weeks, each person ate 30 grams per day of a condiment that was 55 percent cayenne pepper.

At three points—once during the bland diet, once during the spicy diet, and once at the transition—researchers took blood samples from the volunteers. The scientists measured concentrations of insulin and other substances in the samples.

In metabolizing their meals, the study participants produced about one-third less insulin while they were on a spicy diet than on a bland diet. A stand-alone spicy meal had an intermediate effect on insulin, Madeleine Ball and her colleagues report in the July American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Obese volunteers benefited the most, the study revealed.

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