Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
Red pepper contains a bioactive compound known as capsaicin (CAP), which gives it its pungent taste. Past uses of CAP include masking the poor taste of deteriorated food, adding flavor to a dish, and treating ailments.
Karley K. Mahalak and their team performed a study to identify the effects of capsaicin on health. Their study of “Analysis of the Ability of Capsaicin to Modulate the Human Gut Microbiota In Vitro“ was published in Nutrients Journal.
The team of scientists used an in vitro model of the human gut microbiota. This helped them to determine how regular consumption of capsaicin impacts the gut microbiota.
Capsaicin can be beneficial for your health when consumed in certain amounts. This was stated in the previous studies. However, there was no available data on the exact mechanism behind the effects. But in this study, the scientists carried out an in vitro model of the human gut to verify how capsaicin affects gut microbiota.
How Did They Carry The Experiment?
Researchers used an in vitro technique to proceed with this experiment. An in vitro technique takes place in a glass tube or dish instead of a living body.
To carry out this experiment, scientists analyzed two homogeneous human fecal samples. They diluted the sample up to an extent to create an environment similar to the human body. These in vitro human gut microbial communities were treated with capsaicin for 2 weeks.
The scientists analyzed the microbial communities using metagenomics and metabolomics methods. They used a combination of NextGen sequencing to precisely note the data.
Capsaicin Effect On Gut Microbiota
Regular capsaicin (CAP) treatment changed gut microbial community structure by increasing the diversity and abundance of certain SCFAs (Short Chain Fatty Acids). Specifically, it changed the structure of butanoic acid.
This study demonstrated the presence of butanoic acid increased in the microbial community of the human gut microbiome when capsaicin was added. Capsaicin’s health benefits may be attributed to these changes.
Validating the Experiment
The team majorly used shotgun sequencing and bioinformatics. They discovered that regular consumption of capsaicin changed the structure of gut microbiota and SCFA (Short Chain Fatty Acids). This study shows that capsaicin can alter the structure of gut microbiota.
Previously in two in vivo mouse studies, CAP decreased weight gain and food intake. They increased key gut microbial genera.
Hence, most of the positive health effects of CAP treatment are likely attributed to these changes in gut microbial composition. It changes the abundance of SCFAs and concludes to consist of positive health effects.
Capsaicin is associated with many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and obesity and having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hypertensive effects.
The gut microbiota plays a significant role in tackling the disease. CAP consumption in mice and humans has been linked to changes in gut microbiota in previous in vivo studies. These new findings are validated by those of other researchers, showing that this in vitro model can mimic the gut microbiome response to CAP in vivo. According to this study, changes in microbial communities in the gut were associated with CAP.
Therefore, more research in this vertical can lead to therapeutic advances for diseases like obesity, diabetes, and irritable bowel disease. Further research is necessary to determine whether CAP can be used to prevent these diseases.
Mahalak, K. K., Bobokalonov, J., Firrman, J., Williams, R., Evans, B., Fanelli, B., Soares, J. W., Kobori, M., & Liu, L. (2022). Analysis of the Ability of Capsaicin to Modulate the Human Gut Microbiota In Vitro. Nutrients, 14(6), 1283. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14061283