American Society For Nutrition

Cool Chilies!

Cool Chilies!

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 04/22/2011 at 05:25:36 PM by Student Blogger
By: Umang A.


Recently, Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) approved the use of dihydrocapsiate (DHC) as a food additive (subject to EU's approval). This development comes after FDA's approval in 2009, where synthetic DHC was recognized as GRAS "for use as an ingredient in a variety of food categories". However, currently it is only available as a weight-loss dietary supplement in the US.

DHC ((4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzyl) 8-methylnonanoate) is a capsinoid naturally found in a variety of Capsicum species. An analogue of capsaicin - the pungent compound present in chilies, DHC is a viscous and colorless oil and was first discovered in CH-19 Sweet pepper. The only difference between capsaicin and DHC is that the amide bond between the vanillyl moiety and fatty acid moiety in capsaicin is replaced by an ester bond in DHC. However, due to low supply of peppers synthetic DHC is commercially manufactured by fermentation.

As per current market scenario, most of the slimming products rely on the mechanism of lowering caloric intake by suppressing appetite. However, DHC's niche is that it uses the other approach of boosting caloric output or energy expenditure. It has been shown to increase the burning of fat through a sympathetic nervous system pathway. DHC is rapidly hydrolyzed and absorbed through the gut and eliminated into the urine. Given the growing popularity of DHC, we will soon have food products in the market which would help in weight-loss.

Chilies originated in Mexico from where they spread throughout the world. Today, India is the world's largest producer and exporter of chilies. From curries and salad to pickles and snacks, peppers are extensively used in cuisines throughout the world. Some Indian recipes (for a slimming aspirant) can be found on:

Capsicum species have also been used in traditional medicine systems as a digestive, stomachic, stimulant and even as a pain killer having implications in diarrhea, cholera, arthritis etc. In Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine, chilies are considered helpful to accelerate oxygenation of cells, formation of bile, vascular stimulation, eliminate flatulence and body temperature homeostasis. In hot tropical climates people eat chilies to enhance perspiration which in turn helps to cool the body.

Now after so much being told, if we soon have food products which provide all the benefits of chilies, and yet are not pungent, will you not go for them? At least I would. So, let's wait for calorie-burning cakes with chili extracts to enter the market. Till then, enjoy your own capsicum recipes.

REFERENCES: (FDA GRAS notice inventory)

V.S. Govindarajan and M.N. Satyanarayana, Capsicum: production, technology, chemistry and quality. Part V. Impact on physiology, pharmacology, nutrition and metabolism; structure, pungency, pain and desensitization sequences, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 29 (1991), pp. 435–474

C. P. Khare, Indian Medicinal Plants, (An illustrated dictionary, Springer international, New Delhi, 2004)

Chilli pepper image file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. []

Posted Apr 25, 2011 3:50 PM by Qiong Hu

I would definitely go for it, not only for weight loss. However, I still prefer it has the pungent flavor since we eat chilly pepper everyday. We love the hot taste!

Posted Apr 25, 2011 7:36 PM by K. French

Assuming side effects are minimal (unlike, for example, Olestra) and production of the additive is relatively cheap, this has big market potential. The first place it will show up (if it hasn't already) is in the energy drink market. And maybe novelty foods like "metabolism boosting ice cream!" If this takes off, it will be interesting.

Posted Apr 25, 2011 9:15 PM by Umang Agarwal

@Karin: Totally agree, and what better than delighting yourself to a weight-loss ice-cream!

I'm always skeptical of new food additives like this. These compounds work great in plants, but when we isolate, manufacture and concentrate them, the results are often less beneficial than expected.

Yeah, i've heard that cayenne is effective for a lot of conditions, especially digestive. Where do i find DHC?

Posted May 11, 2011 2:26 PM by Umang

@ Fish Oil: It is sold by Ajinomoto in the US. Please visit for more details.

Posted May 11, 2011 2:32 PM by umang

@ Tom Corson-Knowles: Agree, that it's best to consume such products in its natural form. But isn't the objective of biotechnology to make life better without having to change your lifestyle? + It would require tonnes of chillies if they were to extract natural capsaicin. Cloning the gene of interest in bacteria helps mass production bysimple fermentation.