Chili Peppers and Colorectal Tumors

Capsaicin, a substance already known to relieve pain associated with shingles, may also ultimately reduce the risk of colorectal tumors, according to new research.

Investigators from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine said that capsaicin, which is the active ingredient in chili peppers, activates a receptor on the intestinal cells of mice. Their findings were published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The receptor, called TRPV1, acts as a warning system for heat, acidity and spicy chemicals in the environment. “These are all potentially harmful stimuli to cells,” said Eyal Raz, MD, professor of Medicine and senior author of the study.

Raz and fellow investigators also found that with capsaicin, TPRV1 is activated in epithelial (skin-lining) cells in the intestines. Ultimately that helps in a healthy turnover rate of epithelial cells, which are replaced about every four days. Without that help, the researchers found, there is an increased risk of tumors.

In their study, the investigators found that mice who were genetically modified to be without TRPV-1 had higher than normal rates of intestinal tumor growths.

But Raz cautioned that that there’s still no direct evidence that TRPV-1 is a risk factor for colorectal cancer. currently there is no direct evidence that TRPV1 deficiency is a risk factor for colorectal cancer in humans.

“A direct association between TRPV1 function and human colorectal cancer should be addressed in future clinical studies,” he said. The study indicates that capsaicin might be spicy capsaicin, which prompts a burning sensation in contact with tissue.

It’s already used for arthritis and shingles as a pain killer on skin, where its irritant properties overwhelm pain signals.

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