A novel drug based on capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their spicy burn, causes long term weight loss and improves metabolic health in mice eating a high fat diet, a study led by an Indian origin researcher has found. The drug, Metabocin, was designed to slowly release capsaicin throughout the day so it can exert its anti-obesity effect without producing inflammation or adverse side effects, researchers from the University of Wyoming in the US said.
“We observed marked improvements in blood sugar and cholesterol levels, insulin response, and symptoms of fatty liver disease,” said Baskaran Thyagarajan, lead investigator, adding Metabocin reversed many damaging effects of the high fat diet.
Stimulating the TRPV1 receptors causes white fat cells to start burning energy instead of storing it, which, in theory, should cause weight loss. An important question for the researchers was whether the drug remains effective when used long term, and whether adverse effects would outweigh its benefits.
The mice in this experiment remained on the drug for eight months, maintaining the weight loss with no evidence of safety problems. “It proved safe and was well tolerated by the mice. Developing Metabocin as a potent anti-obesity treatment shows promise as part of a robust strategy for helping people struggling with obesity,” said Thyagarajan.
Researchers cautioned that these results may give some people the idea to eat more spicy food to lose weight, however, that would not work as intended. Most of the capsaicin in spicy food is not well absorbed into the body so it would not produce these effects, they said. The researchers specifically modified the capsaicin in Metabocin for proper absorption and sustained release.