Posted on Apr 13, 2012, 6 a.m.
Capsaicin and capsaicinoids, compounds found abundantly in hot peppers, beneficially affect cholesterol levels and aortic function.
Previously, a number of studies have identified a role for capsaicin, a compound found in hot chili peppers, in lowering blood pressure. Zhen-Yu Chen, from Chinese University of Hong Kong, and colleagues further explored capsaicin and a related compound, capsaicinoids, observing that these compounds substances lower cholesterol levels by reducing accumulation of cholesterol in the body and increasing its breakdown and excretion. In addition to reducing total cholesterol levels in the blood, capsaicinoids reduced levels of the so-called "bad" cholesterol (which deposits into blood vessels), but did not affect levels of so-called "good" cholesterol. The team found indications that capsaicinoids may reduce the size of deposits that already have formed in blood vessels, narrowing arteries in ways that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Additionally, the researchers observed that capsaicin and capsaicinoids blocked the action of a gene that makes arteries contract, thereby allowing more blood to flow through blood vessels. Further, capsaicinoids were found to inhibit the activity of a gene that produces cyclooxygenase-2, a substance that makes the muscles around blood vessels constrict. By blocking it, muscles can relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow.
Chen ZY, et al. Abstract presented at 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), March 27, 2012.