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.