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Two-week study doesn’t move the dial beyond what is already known about hot pepper extract and metabolism

New study shows supplementation of capsicum extract helps increase metabolic rate

Our Review Summary

This news release suggests that supplementing the diet with capsaicinoids, the heat producing chemicals in hot peppers, increases metabolism and therefore weight loss. But it relies too heavily on extrapolation to make the claim that capsaicinoids cause weight and fat loss. The release summarizes a small, short-term study of 40 participants that was published in Obesity: Open Access

The release would have been improved had it addressed harms of heavy supplementation and acknowledged the conflicts of interest among researchers involved in the study.

 

Why This Matters

Obesity is a health concern around the world.  A wide variety of behavioral, drug and other interventions have been introduced but weight loss and weight management remain a difficult challenge for many.  A simple supplement that would help people control their weight would be newsworthy — if its usefulness were borne out in larger and longer studies.

Criteria

Does the news release adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The cost of Capsimax (or products containing the Capsimax proprietary supplement) is not mentioned.

Does the news release adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The release claims that the supplement would increase a person’s metabolic rate which would be equivalent to burning an additional 116 calories a day. The release further suggests that this could translate into 1 pound of fat loss monthly. But it’s important to note that as weight is lost, the metabolic rate decreases. What starts as 1 pound per month, regardless of the method used to lose weight, the metabolic rate would decrease with time and not remain linear. That should have been noted in the release.

More importantly, perhaps, the study lasted just two weeks. Participants received the active ingredient for one week and then crossed over to placebo. That’s a very brief period of time from which to draw conclusions about benefit.

Does the news release adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The release says that multiple studies have shown the supplement is safe, however, the safety hasn’t been evaluated or demonstrated in this or other research we could find. A search of PubMed found only three studies involving capsicum supplementation. All were short-term and none were designed to look at safety.

WebMD says that taking capsicum supplements is generally safe for adults if taken for a brief period of time. However, taking large doses for a long period of time can lead to serious harms including liver or kidney damage.

Does the news release seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The release relies heavily on extrapolation when it claims taking the capsicum extract will burn the equivalent of “an extra 116 calories per day.” The study didn’t look at a full day’s resting energy expenditure (REE), but rather extrapolated from REE measured at 1, 2 and 3 hours post intervention. There’s no evidence provided that consuming capsicum extract would impact a person’s REE for a full day.

Does the news release commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There is no disease mongering.

Does the news release identify funding sources & disclose conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The release doesn’t list any funding sources or potential conflicts of interest. The study states that researchers have no conflict of interest but then provides conflicting information suggesting that’s not true. The study also notes that one of the researchers involved with the study is an employee of the supplement manufacturer and another holds a patent for the device used to measure metabolic changes and also received funding from the supplement manufacturer. Those are two clear examples of conflicts of interest that should have been mentioned in the release.

Does the news release compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The release doesn’t mention any alternatives (such as exercise, medications, diet or other supplements) or offer any comparisons with other methods of speeding up metabolism to effect weight loss.

The loss of 1 pound per month is readily achievable through other interventions, including those that are free and don’t involve taking supplements that do not have proven safety and efficacy profiles.

Does the news release establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The release doesn’t offer any advice to readers about where to acquire Capsimax — just that it’s available in “hundreds” of products. An online search for “Capsimax” turns up numerous products containing the extract but  can people shopping for supplements online be assured of purity of ingredients and accuracy of dosing? The release could have done a lot better job by directly people to reputable sources of the supplement.

Does the news release establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The release doesn’t claim that the compounds in hot peppers are a novel approach to weight control nor does it suggest that capsacian’s ability to increase metabolism is a new concept. The release doesn’t establish what is new about the findings.

Does the news release include unjustifiable, sensational language, including in the quotes of researchers?

Satisfactory

The release doesn’t rely on sensational or unjustified language.

Total Score: 2 of 10 Satisfactory

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