Chili is a well-known ingredient to many, as it is a fiery berry (yes, you read that right!) that is enjoyed by people all over the world. It is commonly found in dishes such as mala, ramen, pasta, and can even be made into dipping sauces for popular local dishes like chicken rice and nasi lemak.
However, did you know that aside from its ability to add flavor to our food, chili may also contribute to improving our health?
The key to the chili's health benefits lies in its active component known as capsaicin (CAP). Interestingly, CAP is also responsible for the burning sensation in the mouth and digestive system when consuming chili. Despite this, let's take a closer look at CAP and its potential role in improving our health.
CAP has been closely associated with the maintenance of glucose levels in the body, also known as glucose homeostasis, which may impact related diseases like diabetes.
Research conducted on obese diabetic mice has shown that CAP enhances glucose homeostasis, which is crucial in maintaining weight and diabetes control.
CAP was found to restrict the increase of fasting blood glucose and insulin levels, playing a significant role in glucose homeostasis. This, in turn, helps prevent diseases such as diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone that facilitates the entry of glucose in the blood into cells, providing them with the energy they need to function. These cells also convert glucose into glycogen for storage.
In contrast, glucagon is also a hormone, but it opposes the actions of insulin. It signals cells to convert stored glycogen into glucose for energy when there is a shortage of glucose in the bloodstream.
Maintaining a proper balance between these two hormones is crucial to ensure that the blood glucose level is always within the optimal range.
CAP and the Gut Microbiome
Moreover, CAP was discovered to increase the prevalence of Roseburia in the gut microbiome. Roseburia is a bacterium that produces butyrate, a type of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that regulates gastrointestinal hormones and suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines. Butyrate boosts insulin production while reducing glucagon production in the pancreas, resulting in lower blood glucose levels. It also slows down digestion, which slows the stomach's emptying, preventing blood sugar spikes.
Furthermore, butyrate inhibits ghrelin secretion, also known as the "hunger hormone." Lower ghrelin levels mean less hunger and, therefore, a reduction in the intake of foods that cause blood sugar to rise.
Finally, the study demonstrated that butyrate also lowers the level of inflammatory cytokines (or compounds) in mice. By decreasing inflammation, insulin resistance in the mice decreases, resulting in improved insulin response and the use of available glucose in the bloodstream by cells. Conversely, increased insulin resistance prompts the pancreas to produce more insulin, which increases blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is a precursor to prediabetes and diabetes.
In summary, the study suggests that CAP consumption may enhance glucose homeostasis and, in turn, prevent related diseases like diabetes. Further research is still needed to fully comprehend the benefits of CAP in humans and how to maximize these benefits by incorporating chili into our daily lives. Meanwhile, you can still enjoy the spicy kick of your meals but remember to have a glass of milk nearby!