(NaturalHealth365) Did you know the heat you feel after biting into a hot chili pepper is good for you? The compound capsaicin – that causes this pungent heat – is also found to kill cancer cells. In fact, in the last few years, the research on chili peppers has focused on many organs including, the pancreas, brain, prostate, colon and breast.
Do chili peppers harm healthy cells?
To date, there has been many studies on chili pepper’s ability to fight off cancer cells in many cancer affected organs. Among them, the 2006 study on prostate cancer cells drew more interest from researchers. Experiments, on the compound capsacisin reveal that this compound specifically targeted the tumors and cancerous cells without affecting the healthy cells.
It was found that capsaicin was able to do this by interfering with protein synthesis of the cancer cells, degradation of the cell DNA and interfering with cell transcription mechanisms of cancerous cells. While capsaicin affected the mitochondrial pathway of the cancer cells, there was no interference in the activity of healthy cells. This was observed in cancer-induced albino rats in lab studies.
A 2006 study published in Cancer Research revealed that capsaicin was effective in inhibiting prostate cancer cells. The study found that capsaicin promoted automated cell death in primary types of prostate cancer cell lines – as well as in cancer cells caused by hormones.
Furthermore, capsaicin decreased the expression of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and inhibited the ability of the dihydrotestosterone to activate PSA. When lab animals received four weeks of treatment with capsaicin, it was observed that prostate cancer growth and size significantly decreased.
Chili peppers do more than just prevent cancer
Compounds in chili peppers have been associated with multiple benefits like positive immune health, weight loss, lower risk of diabetes, and heart-healthy effects. A randomized, cross-over study among 27 healthy subjects revealed that consuming freshly chopped chili prevented the oxidation (free radical damage) to the fat cells – which was a crucial factor in decreasing heart problems.
Capsaicin is also anti-inflammatory in nature. It inhibits substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammation that results in pain, heart diseases and other conditions. Because of this property, it has been used in a variety of chemotherapy studies for pain relief and also in many treatments involving nerve fiber disorders, conditions like psoriasis, arthritis plus many more.
Researchers say, the hotter the pepper, the higher is its capsaicin content, good examples include habanero and scotch bonnet peppers followed by jalapeno.
Ways to use chili peppers in your next recipe
Chili peppers can give any bland recipe an interesting taste. So, the next time you sauté vegetables in a stir fry try adding some chili peppers to accentuate its health benefits as well as spice up a bit. Other ways to super-charge your recipes include, adding minced chili peppers to plain yoghurt as a salad dressing; in salsa for extra hot taste; pureeing a small amount with tomatoes or olives to give a surprising twist to your recipes.
Just be very careful when you are handling fresh chili peppers, direct contact with skin, lips and eyes can cause a severe burning sensation. Be sure to use cooking gloves instead of bare hands when using them for cooking.
Consuming chili peppers, in moderation, is considered safe, however if you are allergic to peppers or night shade family, it is a good idea to keep away from this spice. Another important point to keep in mind is to buy organic hot peppers instead of conventionally grown ones. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2013 report, non-organic hot peppers are among the most toxic (pesticide sprayed) items on the market.
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1. Anandakumar P et.al; Capsaicin provokes apoptosis and restricts benzo(a)pyrene induced lung tumorigenesis in swiss albino mice. International Imuunopharmacology, vol 17 ( 2) 2013.
2. Mori A, Lehmann S, O’Kelly J, Kumagai T, Desmond J, Pervan M, McBride W, Kizaki M, Koeffler HP. Capsaicin, a Component of Red Peppers, Inhibits the Growth of Androgen-Independent, p53 Mutant Prostate Cancer Cells. Cancer Res 2006 Mar 15;66(6):3222-9. 2006.
3. Robbins W. Clinical applications of capsaicinoids. Clin J Pain 2000 Jun;16(2 Suppl):S86-9. 2000.
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