Tuesday, September 05, 2006

spicy foods: good for diabetics, don't cause heartburn

Some good news on two fronts for fans of spicy foods!

First, as I saw in Science News (subscription only), researchers in Australia found that regularly eating chile peppers as part of meals significantly reduces the amount of insulin produced as a response to eating. (summary) In people with diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions, the pancreas tries to compensate for insulin resistance, an inability of cells to use the sugar in the blood, by increasing insulin production. Eventually the pancreas can't keep up, blood sugar starts fluctuating, and diabetes results. The authors of the study suggest that eating chiles regularly may, by the action of chile-related chemicals in the bloodstream, increase the ease with which insulin can enter cells and trigger metabolism of sugar, thus reducing insulin resistance. This study is part of a series of recent studies that have tended to show that eating chiles increases the metabolism of food, reducing obsesity, and it makes a novel contribution by showing that regular consumption is more helpful than just single spicy meals.

Of course, spicy meals are no good if they give you heartburn or other problems. The researchers in the insulin study report than their previously bland-food-eating participants stopped having noting GI symptoms after just a week of regular spicy meals. This is corroborated by a meta-analysis reported in the New York Times recently, a Stanford study showing that "cutting caffeine, citrus fruits and spicy foods did not eliminate heartburn symptoms." Alcohol and tobacco seem to be causes of heartburn, not chiles.

Refreshing news for those of us who like a little burn with our food...

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