The effects of capsaicin and capsaicinoid analogs on metabolic molecular targets in highly energetic tissues and cell types

Biofactors. 2016 May;42(3):229-46. doi: 10.1002/biof.1273. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


There is increasing interest in dietary chemicals that may provide benefits for pathologies such as diabetes and obesity. Capsaicinoids found in chili peppers and pepper extracts, are responsible for the "hot" or "spicy" sensation associated with these foods. Capsaicinoid consumption is also associated with enhanced metabolism, making them potentially therapeutic for metabolic disease by promoting weight loss. This review summarizes much of the current experimental evidence (ranging from basic to applied investigations) of the biochemical and molecular metabolic effects of capsaicinoids in metabolically significant cell types. Along with influencing metabolic rate, findings demonstrate capsaicinoids appear to alter molecular metabolic signaling, regulate hunger and satiety, blood metabolites, and catecholamine release. Notably, the majority of the experiments summarized herein utilized isolated supplemental or research grade capsaicinoids rather than natural food sources for experimental interventions. Additional work should be conducted using primary food sources of capsaicin to explore pharmacological, physiological, and metabolic benefits of both chronic and acute capsaicin consumption. © 2016 BioFactors, 42(3):229-246, 2016.

Keywords: chili/chilli/chile pepper; energy expenditure; obesity; satiety; uncoupling protein; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Capsaicin / analogs & derivatives
  • Capsaicin / therapeutic use*
  • Capsicum / chemistry
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diet therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Capsaicin