Capsaicin found in chili peppers is known to promote fat burning and increase metabolism, but researchers are now showing evidence that they can kill cancer cells and may even extend lifespan. Past research suggested that spicing food with chilies can lower blood pressure in people with that condition, reduce blood cholesterol and ease the tendency for dangerous blood clots to form.
The component that gives jalapeno peppers their heat is also what makes tumor cells commit suicide. Scientists have also reported that chili peppers are a heart-healthy food with potential to protect against heart disease.
Prevents Intestinal Cancer
Treatment of tumour-prone mice with capsaicin has been shown to reduce tumour burden and extended the lifespans of the mice by over 30%. “This may be translated to humans to a certain extent but further research will be necessary to quantify gene expression,” said Dr. Henry Peterson commenting on the study.
The latest research, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, said the active ingredient produced chronic activation of a receptor, TRPV1, on cells lining the intestines of mice genetically modified to be TRPV1-deficient, which in turn triggered the reaction.
“Our data also suggested that TRPV1 triggering by dietary administration of capsaicin suppressed intestinal tumourigenesis,” the researchers said.
As a result they recommended the administration of TRPV1 agonists like capsaicin in combination with celecoxib, a COX-2 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that treats some forms of arthritis and pain.
How it Works
The receptor or ion channel TRPV1 was originally discovered in sensory neurons, where it acts as a guard against heat, acidity and chemicals in the environment. This latest research found that the receptor was also expressed by intestinal epithelial cells.
The scientists discovered that TRPV1 works as a tumor suppressor in the intestines through a “feedback loop” with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), reducing the risk of unwanted growth.
Dr Petrus de Jong, one of the study’s authors, said: “A basic level of EGFR activity is required to maintain the normal cell turnover in the gut. However, if EGFR signaling is left unrestrained, the risk of sporadic tumor development increases.”
Professor Eyal Raz, another of the study’s authors, said: “Our data suggest that individuals at high risk of developing recurrent intestinal tumors may benefit from chronic TRPV1 activation.”
“We have provided proof-of-principle.”