Pepper is more beneficial than we would have thought. A new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggests that the main ingredient in chili peppers, dietary capsaicin, decreases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
The dietary capsaicin is said to stimulate the activation of an ion channel known as TRPV1 which lines the surface of the intestines of mice. These receptors, previously described as “pain receptors”, protect the cells from heat, acidity and spicy chemicals which are harmful to the cells. The TPRV1 is thus crucial for the cells of the intestine to remain in good shape.
TRRV1 is activated by the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) which drives cell proliferation in the alimentary canal. EGFR needs to be active for the normal cell turnover in the gut is maintained. TRPV1 and EGFR work in conjunction so that unwanted cell growth does not occur. So, as a consequence, if EGFR is not stimulated, the occurrence of tumors becomes more likely to happen.
The new study also showed how the lack of TRPV1 led to greater rates of tumors at the level of intestines of mice. Therefore, the researchers concluded that epithelial TRPV1 acts as a tumor suppressor in that part of the alimentary canal.
Proving the importance of capsaicin further, the scientists fed mice suffering from colorectal cancer with pepper. Thereafter, the mice had a 30 % longer lifespan than those mice which did not have pepper in their diet.