Can adding pepper sauce to your meals really help you lose weight? Do ‘good fats’ help your body burn more fat? There are many claims that certain foods such as chilli, green tea and coconut oil can aid weight loss by boosting metabolism or suppressing appetite. But does the research stack up? Dr Schenker says: ‘There have been some interesting studies on the potential of chillies to aid weight loss. Experiments in animals and humans show that eating a meal containing chilli increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation compared to the same meal without chilli.
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One recent study from Oxford Brookes University looked at the thermic effects of chilli and coconut oil (which contains a type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, MCT). The researchers concluded that adding chilli and MCT to meals increases the thermic effect of food (the energy burnt when you digest food) by more than 50 per cent, which may, over time, help induce weight loss.
This has led to suggestions that regular chilli consumption could help reduce obesity. However, there are drawbacks: not everyone relishes the thought of a spicy breakfast and, for some, spicy food can cause unpleasant side-effects. The amount of chilli needed to have an effect is high – some studies used 30g per day. Furthermore, the effect could be lost over time as the body adapts. ‘While there’s some scientific research looking at whether green-tea extracts can influence fat mass and weight loss, at present, there’s no solid proof consumption of green-tea extracts will improve weight loss to any meaningful degree.
THE AMOUNT OF CHILLI REQUIRED TO HAVE AN EFFECT APPEARS TO BE HIGH’
The verdict: ‘Nice as it sounds, there’s no solid evidence that food or drinks are “fat burning” or “burn more calories”. Most “fat-burning” foods are not calorie-laden but don’t burn more calories per se. If you like chilli, there’s no harm in consuming a little more, but don’t expect miraculous results and don’t use it as an excuse to eat unhealthy food. In other words, a hotter curry does not mean a cake later!