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Capsaicinoids – Properties and Mechanisms of Pro-health Action

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Part of the Food Bioactive Ingredients book series (FBC)

Abstract

Chili peppers (Capsicum) are among the most popular spice with culinary qualities because of the pungent taste of the fruit. From more than 30 varieties of the Capsicum genus, only 5 of them are domesticated: Capsicum pubescens, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum chinense, and Capsicum frutescens. The compounds which give a spicy taste in Capsicum fruit are capsaicinoids, which mainly include capsaicin (69%), dihydrocapsaicin (22%), as well as nordihydrocapsaicin (7%), homocapsaicin (1%), and homodihydrocapsaicin (1%). There is a direct correlation between the total content of capsaicinoids and Capsicum fruits pungency, and this pungency is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). For example, a popular variety of Jalapeño measures from 2500 to 8000 SHU, while the value for pure capsaicin is equal to 16,000,000 SHU.

On the other hand, owing to capsaicinoids, Capsicum fruits are an interesting subject of scientific research, especially in terms of pro-health properties. It is worth noting that the mechanisms proposed by scientists confirm the analgesic effect of capsaicin and its effect on thermoregulation. Based on these mechanisms, the beneficial effect of capsaicinoids in the treatment of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, gastroprotective, or anti-cancer activity was investigated and partially or completely confirmed. However, especially in the case of the anticancerogenic activity of capsaicinoids, there are too many conflicting or incomplete studies to clearly confirm its activity in this regard.

In anticipation of specific scientific evidence which will confirm the mechanisms of action of capsaicinoids in living organisms as well as their pro-health properties in the treatment of various diseases, it is worth introducing Capsicum fruits to the daily diet because, in addition to their taste, they possess many properties that can have a positive effect on the human health.

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This work was supported by Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (PUT grant number: 0911/SBAD/0396).

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Werner, J. (2021). Capsaicinoids – Properties and Mechanisms of Pro-health Action. In: Jeszka-Skowron, M., Zgoła-Grześkowiak, A., Grześkowiak, T., Ramakrishna, A. (eds) Analytical Methods in the Determination of Bioactive Compounds and Elements in Food. Food Bioactive Ingredients. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61879-7_8

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