Red Hot Chili Peppers

Hillary Clinton’s “Secret” Peppers

Hillary ClintonIt’s that time. We may as well accept it. The onslaught of stories about the secret to weight loss has started. No surprise. It grabs eyeballs, clicks, and advertising dollars. One of the opening shots is an AP story about Hillary Clinton’s strategy for diet and fitness on the campaign trail.

To be fair, reporter Lisa Lerer does a good job with a focus on preventing weight gain and a healthy respect for balanced nutrition. But unfortunately she adds a bit about the “weight-loss power of hot peppers,” writing:

Her one secret: Raw hot peppers. At a farm stand in Davenport, Iowa, this fall, Clinton detailed scientific research on the health effects of spicy food, telling a cashier that she finds eating raw jalapenos “so refreshing.”

Though some data supports the idea that capsaicinoids in peppers may have a small effect on energy intake, there’s no support for the notion that hot peppers offer some kind of weight loss secret. This and 3.6 million other recent stories about “weight loss secrets” are appealing for only one reason. People already know that weight loss is hard.

The secret is that there’s no secret. Dietary restriction — just about any approach — can produce short term weight loss, but any more than 5-10% is almost always short-lived. Even keeping 5-10% of your weight off requires a lot of work, along with some real help from real professionals — like an obesity medicine physician, a registered dietitian, or other professionals with expertise in weight management.

So if you like hot peppers, enjoy them. But don’t count on them for magic weight loss.

Click here for the AP story, here for a review of the data on capsaicinoids, and here for a recent, speculative review of the potential of food ingredients as anti-obesity agents.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, photograph © Simon Whitaker / flickr

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December 27, 2015