Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Capsaicin: Anti-Cancer Food Chemical in Chili Pepper Diet

This may come as a shock to many individuals but it’s the truth anyways. The chili pepper (Capsicum annum) is certainly one of the many healthy things to eat as a food. The capsicum fruits which include bell pepper, wax, cayenne, jalapenos and chiltepin are consumed worldwide as food additives but little is known of its healthy anti-cancer properties. It is believed that eating lots of chili pepper may be able to reduce blood pressure (although the daily requirement for that is not certain). But as a food supplement which is another member of our anti-cancer diet, chili pepper is linked with the prevention of both stomach and prostate cancer.

The particular food chemical that is responsible for the anti-cancer properties of the chili pepper and other capsicum fruits is Capsaicin. Capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colourless, odourless, crystalline-to-wax solid (at room temperature) food chemical. Capsaicin is recognised in pepper-based foods by it hot, pungent qualities and this food chemical is what scientists believe makes chili pepper a member of our anti-cancer diet. The anti-cancer activities of Capsaicin in chili pepper can be expressed in four distinct ways. 

1.       Capsaicin fights cancer by inhibiting the translocation of cancer-promoting genes.
One of the anti-cancer activities of Capsaicin in fighting cancer is seen in the inhibition of translocation of cancer-promotion genes. For example, Capsaicin inhibits the translocation of three genes namely Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-KB), Activator protein 1 (AP-1), and Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT-3). These cancer-promoting genes are important in signalling pathways for carcinogenesis, a process that leads to cancer formation in cells. This anti-cancer activity of this food chemical on these three genes is significant in the prevention of pancreatic and breast cancer.

Another anti-cancer activity of the Capsaicin-containing chili pepper is its ability to create an anti-inflammatory effect in cancer-infected cells. Capsaicin carries out this anti-cancer activity by inhibiting the effect of a protein called COX-2 mRNA (COX-2 protein is responsible for inflammation in cells). The inflammation of cells has been known to promote cancer formation and the effects of cell inflammation is always associated with increased levels of COX-2 in affected cells, and scientists have identified COX-2 in high proportions in cancer-infected cells. Capsaicin therefore inhibits COX-2 mRNA from causing inflammation and this single anti-cancer activity of this food chemical is essential in both preventing and fighting colon, rectum, and breast cancer.

Capsaicin has shown anti-cancer activity against xenobiotics. Xenobiotics are foreign bodies or chemicals in the body that can cause cancer. This food chemical has through research studies shown that it is an anti-cancer agent because it inhibits an enzyme called Cytochrome P4502E1. This enzyme mediates the activation of two xenobiotics called vinyl carbonate and nitrosamine (both known carcinogens) to toxic metabolites, which can be readily excreted by cells. This food chemical also fights cancer by suppressing the activities of androgen-independent P53 in mutated prostate cancer cells.

Another cancer-fighting property of this food chemical found in chili pepper is to cause cancer-infected cells to kill themselves. Capsaicin’s anti-cancer activity makes free oxygen in cells to be reactive. This simple but complicated anti-cancer activity of this food chemical eliminates free radicals and causes apoptosis of cancer-infected cells. An example of this cancer-fighting activity of Capsaicin  as it relates to cell apoptosis, is evident in the inducing cisplatin-stomach cancer cells and preventing stomach cancer.



  1. Oh yes, I never knew chili pepper is so good for heath as well as it has miraculous qualities to fight cancer. Thanks for sharing the useful information.

  2. New Diet Taps into Pioneering Idea to Help Dieters Lose 12-23 Pounds in Just 21 Days!


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