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Capsaicin ingredient may help burn fat, lead to weight loss

If proven effective in humans, a solution of the ingredient could be a surgical alternative to bariatric surgery

BOSTON – New research reveals a possible surgical alternative to losing weight. 

The heat of chili peppers, as it turns out, may help melt away a beer gut.

This is thanks to an ingredient called "capsaicin" that gives chili peppers their intense heat. 

Dr. Ali Tavakkoli of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has been studying this ingredient, which you may have used before.

Capsaicin is used in topical ointments as a pain reliever.

Tavakkoli applied tiny cloths soaked with a capsaicin solution directly to the nerve around the stomach of lab rats. That destroyed nerve fibers that send signals from the gut to the brain.  It lead to weight loss.

"By selectively disrupting these signals that pass from the intestine to the brain, we have been able to change the way food is absorbed in the intestine," said Dr. Tavakkoli.

If proven effective in humans, this could be a surgical alternative to bariatric surgery, which is performed on less than 1 percent of obese patients who qualify for it.

"There really is a group that this would be perfect for, and it's probably the super obese," said Tavakkoli.

Bariatric surgery is a major procedure, which can come with considerably greater risks for the morbidly obese.  The capsaicin application is still surgery, but much less invasive.

It appears to target so-called "bad fat" that's located in the abdomen, around the organs and liver.

"It turns out that it's not really if you're fat, but where you're fat that matters," said Tavakkoli.

Extra belly fat is associated with heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. 

Doctors say, however, that it's too early to fill your belly with hot chili peppers, as it wouldn't have the same effect.