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Eat Spicy Foods if You Want to Be Less Fat

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

People in this country have an eating problem. Don’t take my word for it: In the U.S. alone, more than 30 percent of adults are obese. That’s a lot of people! Like, 97 million people, to be exact.

A lot of the reason for our national weight problem is our diet (duh). We eat a lot of shitty food — lots of sugar, lots of salt. Sugar has been closely linked to obesity for years, and salt has, too.

This makes new studies on the effects of spicy food on our salt and sugar intake really interesting: Last week, CNN reported on one study in China that scanned the brains of 600 people who were given solutions of salt and capsaicin — the active component in chili peppers — then asked which solution (and at what concentration) they liked best. Because areas of the brain that lit up when salt was consumed were the same areas that lit up when the capsaicin was consumed, researchers posit that consuming spicy foods might satisfy that area of the brain in the same way salt does, curbing our craving for sodium. To wit, the test subjects who preferred the spicy solution consumed less salt in general than those who preferred the sodium solution, and had lower blood pressure.

And in another study, this time out of Denmark, researchers provided test subjects with red pepper to add to their daily lunch, after which their calorie and sugar intake was measured. Researchers found that people who didn’t normally consume spicy foods ate less sugar and fewer calories after eating the peppers, concluding that the spicy mixture does have an effect on curbing sugar cravings, too.

Eating more spicy food is probably not the long-term answer to America’s collective growing waistline. But if we want to get back to our slim and svelte former selves, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to pick a peck or two of pickled peppers and eat them with every meal.

A few other things we learned about our bodies today: