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. 2016 Apr 25;8(5):174.
doi: 10.3390/nu8050174.

Dietary Capsaicin Protects Cardiometabolic Organs From Dysfunction

Free PMC article

Dietary Capsaicin Protects Cardiometabolic Organs From Dysfunction

Fang Sun et al. Nutrients. .
Free PMC article


Chili peppers have a long history of use for flavoring, coloring, and preserving food, as well as for medical purposes. The increased use of chili peppers in food is very popular worldwide. Capsaicin is the major pungent bioactivator in chili peppers. The beneficial effects of capsaicin on cardiovascular function and metabolic regulation have been validated in experimental and population studies. The receptor for capsaicin is called the transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (TRPV1). TRPV1 is ubiquitously distributed in the brain, sensory nerves, dorsal root ganglia, bladder, gut, and blood vessels. Activation of TRPV1 leads to increased intracellular calcium signaling and, subsequently, various physiological effects. TRPV1 is well known for its prominent roles in inflammation, oxidation stress, and pain sensation. Recently, TRPV1 was found to play critical roles in cardiovascular function and metabolic homeostasis. Experimental studies demonstrated that activation of TRPV1 by capsaicin could ameliorate obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Additionally, TRPV1 activation preserved the function of cardiometabolic organs. Furthermore, population studies also confirmed the beneficial effects of capsaicin on human health. The habitual consumption of spicy foods was inversely associated with both total and certain causes of specific mortality after adjustment for other known or potential risk factors. The enjoyment of spicy flavors in food was associated with a lower prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. These results suggest that capsaicin and TRPV1 may be potential targets for the management of cardiometabolic vascular diseases and their related target organs dysfunction.

Keywords: TRPV1; capsaicin; chili pepper; diabetes; hypertension; metabolic syndrome; obesity.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Structural and physiological function of TRPV1. TRPV1 is composed of six transmembrane domains. It has a short, pore-forming hydrophobic stretch between the fifth and sixth transmembrane domains. TRPV1 is activated by noxious heat (>43 °C), acid (pH < 5.9), voltage, and various lipids. Additionally, capsaicin activates TRPV1 and triggers cation influx and various subsequent physiological processes.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Favorable effects of capsaicin on cardiometabolic disease or related target organ damage. Activation of TRPV1 by dietary capsaicin plays a critical role in the regulation of lipid and glucose metabolism and vascular function, including the promotion of lipolysis by activating PPARδ, the improvement of vasodilation by increasing eNOS expression, the upregulation of insulin levels by activating PKA, the inhibition of foam cell formation by regulating ABCA1 and LRP1 levels, and the suppression of adipogenesis by activating PPARγ. Therefore, dietary capsaicin can alleviate fatty liver, atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Dietary capsaicin has potential benefits for cardiometabolic diseases in the population.

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