After FoodFacts.com read about this new finding, we reflected on how it might alter how people describe the heat associated with chili peppers. “It was so hot it made my eyes water.” “It was so hot my ears turned red.” “It was so hot my mouth was on fire.” Someday we just might hear, “It’s hot enough to kill cancer cells.” What an amazing thing.
Capsaicin, the compound responsible for chilis’ heat, is used in creams sold to relieve pain, and recent research shows that in high doses, it kills prostate cancer cells. Now researchers are finding clues that help explain how the substance works. Their conclusions suggest that one day it could come in a new, therapeutic form. Their study appears in ACS’The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.
About 10 years ago, researchers reported that capsaicin can kill prostate cancer cells in mice while leaving healthy cells unharmed. But translating that dose to humans would require them to eat a huge number of chili peppers per day. Figuring out how capsaicin works could help researchers transform it into an effective drug in the form of an injection or pill.
Researchers have figured out that the molecule binds to a cell’s surface and affects the membrane, which surrounds and protects the cell. That finding prompted Ashok Kumar Mishra and Jitendriya Swain to try to gain a deeper understanding of capsaicin’s effects so it might be harnessed in the future for new medicines.
The scientists were able to detect how the compound interacts with cell membranes by monitoring its natural fluorescence. The study showed that capsaicin lodges in the membranes near the surface. Add enough of it, and the capsaicin essentially causes the membranes to come apart. With additional research, this insight could help lead to novel tools against cancer or other conditions.
It’s always exciting when research establishes links between natural foods and improving outcomes of disease. A natural approach that can be proven as effective will ultimately always be a better option than unnatural methods. Cancer treatment is exceptionally hard on the human body. More natural options would be welcome to the millions of people undergoing treatment. We look forward to hearing more about this fascinating development.