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Capsaicinoids lower plasma cholesterol and improve endothelial function in hamsters



Capsaicinoids are the active compounds in chili pepper. The present study investigated the effect of capsaicinoids on plasma lipids, functionality of aorta including atherosclerotic plaque development, cholesterol absorption biomarker, fecal sterol excretion, and gene expression of major receptors, enzymes, and transporters involved in cholesterol metabolism.


Hamsters were divided into five groups and fed a high-cholesterol diet containing 0 % (CON), 0.010 % (LD), 0.015 % (MD), 0.020 % (HD), and 0.030 % (VD) capsaicinoids, respectively, for 6 weeks. Plasma lipids were measured using the enzymatic kits, and the gene expression of transporters, enzymes, and receptors involved in cholesterol absorption and metabolism was quantified using the quantitative PCR. Endothelial function was assessed by measuring the acetylcholine-induced endothelium-dependent relaxations in aorta.


Capsaicinoids reduced plasma total cholesterol, non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triacylglycerols with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol being unaffected. All four experimental groups had a decrease in the atherosclerotic plaque compared with CON. Dietary capsaicinoids increased the fecal excretion of total acidic sterols possibly mediated by up-regulation of cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase and down-regulation of liver X receptor alpha. Plasma sterol analysis demonstrated that capsaicinoids decreased the ratio of plasma campesterol/cholesterol, suggesting they decreased cholesterol absorption. Capsaicinoids could improve the endothelium-dependent relaxations and reduce the endothelium-dependent contractions by inhibiting the gene expression of COX-2. However, no dose-dependent effect of capsaicinoids on these parameters was seen.


Capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving lipoprotein profile and aortic function in hamsters fed a high-cholesterol diet.

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This project was supported by a grant from National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

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Correspondence to Zhen-Yu Chen.

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Liang, Y.T., Tian, XY., Chen, J.N. et al. Capsaicinoids lower plasma cholesterol and improve endothelial function in hamsters. Eur J Nutr 52, 379–388 (2013).

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  • Cholesterol
  • Capsaicin
  • Capsaicinoids
  • Aorta
  • CYP7A1
  • COX-2
  • Vascular reactivity