Chilli peppers are displayed for sale in a file photo. Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake
Chilli peppers hold a potential cure for weight loss in obese people that does not require reduced calorie intake. Reuters

A spiced-up diet followed by some red wine could be what the doctor ordered for obese people wanting to shed weight.

Two separate studies point to the role of chilli peppers and grape juice in raising body metabolism rates.

Researchers at the University of Wyoming have developed a novel approach to stimulate energy metabolism and induce weight loss without the need to restrict calorie intake.

Capsaicin, the chief ingredient in chili peppers, could be the ingredient of such a diet-based supplement for obese people.

The other study done at Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences exposed human liver and fat cells to extracts from four chemicals found in Muscadine grapes.

One of the chemicals, ellagic acid, was particularly successful at slowing the growth of existing fat cells, formation of new ones and boosted metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells.

The work was done in collaboration with the universities of Florida and Nebraska.

Initial laboratory data from UoW revealed that dietary capsaicin suppresses high-fat-diet-induced obesity in mice.

Eating calorie-rich food and a lack of physical activity cause an imbalance in metabolism that leads to obesity.

"Obesity is caused by an imbalance between calorie intake and energy dissipation," explained Vivek Krishnan, a graduate student working in Baskaran Thyagarajan's laboratory at the University of Wyoming's School of Pharmacy -- a research group known as "Baskilab."

White fat cells store energy and brown fat cells serve as fat-burning, heat generating machinery.

Dietary capsaicin may stimulate fat burning by activating its receptors, which are expressed in white and brown fat cells, suggests the study.

A high-fat-diet obesity and dietary capsaicin -- 0.01% of capsaicin in the total high fat diet -- prevented high-fat-diet-induced weight gain in trials with wild type mice, but not in mice that genetically lacked the receptor protein TRPV1.

Dietary capsaicin significantly increased the metabolic activity and energy expenditure in mice fed a high-fat diet, but not for mice that genetically lack TRPV1.

Once the results have been demonstrated in clinical trials, it is hoped that the dietary capsaicin could help to prevent and manage obesity and other related health complications such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.

"We envision a nanoparticle-based sustained-release formulation of capsaicin, which is currently under development in our laboratory," added researchers from Baskilab.

"In turn, this will advance a novel dietary supplement-based approach to prevent and treat one of the life-threatening diseases, obesity and its associated complications -- in humans."

More than 2.1 billion people in the world are overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise to include nearly half of the population by 2030. A recent report had shown that the burden of obesity in the UK could beat the total costs of war and terrorism.