Chili peppers are often used to give dishes a spicy kick – but they are more than that. Researchers from the Marshall University in West Virginia discovered that the natural compound that gives chili peppers their “heat” called capsaicin could be used against lung cancer.
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that typically spreads to distant parts of the body. This process is called metastasis. Cancers that commonly metastasize to other locations, such as the brain, liver, or bone, are more difficult to treat. In the study, the researchers found that capsaicin may stop lung cancer from spreading.
For the study, the researchers looked at the effects of capsaicin on three cultured lines of human non-small cell lung cancer cells. Through this, they found that the compound prevented the first stage of metastasis called invasion.
The researchers also examined the effects of capsaicin in an animal trial. In this experiment, they fed mice with lung cancer a diet enhanced with capsaicin. The results showed that the mice with metastatic cancer had smaller areas of metastatic cancer cells in the lungs compared with the mice that did not receive capsaicin.
In additional cell experiments, the researchers found that capsaicin stopped metastasis in lung cancer by blocking the activation of the Src protein. This protein is required for regulating the signals that control the proliferation, survival, and mortality of the cells. In their study, they found that capsaicin directly interacts with Src to prevent the spread of lung cancer.
However, there may be some drawbacks using capsaicin clinically. The researchers noted that the compound might have some unpleasant side effects, including a burning sensation, gastrointestinal irritation, and stomach cramps. Because of this, they need to develop capsaicin analogs that would counter these unpleasant effects.
The researchers suggested that their findings may shed light on the development of novel anti-metastatic treatments for human lung cancer.
Overall, these findings suggested that the natural compound capsaicin from chili peppers could potentially be used to prevent the spreading of lung cancer cells — the team findings at the American Society for Investigative Pathology’sannual meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Other health benefits of capsaicin
In addition to preventing lung cancer metastasis, capsaicin may also protect against prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the U.S. The American Association for Cancer Research found that capsaicin can be a helpful component of a prostate cancer treatment plan as it can kill prostate cancer cells. The compound may also help reduce the expression of proteins that control growth genes that cause cancerous cells to grow.
Capsaicin can also be used to reduce pain. Capsaicin is also used in topical ointments and creams to help relieve pain caused by different conditions, such as arthritis, lower back pain, fibromyalgia, and nerve pain. Capsaicin lowers the amount of substance P, a chemical that helps send pain signals to the brain when applied directly to the skin.
Eating chili peppers may also aid in weight loss. Capsaicin may help suppress your appetite, resulting in weight loss. Chili peppers are also good sources vitamins A and C and antioxidants, so using them for culinary purposes still offer benefits.