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Is Chilli Good For People With Diabetes?

Every year on 14 November, World Diabetes Day is celebrated. The day is meant to raise awareness on this lifelong global health issue for its early detection and prevention, and support people with diabetes to manage the condition efficiently and prevent its complications.

Chilli, belonging to the nightshade family Solanaceae, is a well-known spice in every kitchen and is widely renowned for its hot and pungent taste and flavour notes of iron, earth, smoke and bitterness. Chilli contains a major active compound capsaicin which has multiple health benefits, including prevention and management of diabetes.

There are around 4000 varieties of chillies found across the globe which are usually divided into five Capsicum species and around 28 subspecies.

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According to a study published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, red pepper and capsaicin can help control metabolic syndrome and related diseases such as diabetes. To mention, red pepper includes many different plants such as chilli pepper, cayenne pepper and tabasco pepper. [1]

In this article, we will discuss how the consumption of chilli is associated with diabetes. Take a look.

How Chilli Help People With Diabetes

1. Protects against autoimmune diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is among the most prevalent autoimmune diseases around the world. It is mediated by T-cells (part of the immune system), which causes an autoimmune reaction and make the body attack its own cells of the pancreas, thus obstructing the production of insulin.

Capsaicin has immune-modulating properties when administered orally. This vital compound can help suppress the autoimmune reactions in the pancreatic lymph nodes (not other lymph nodes) and may help protect against the development of type 1 diabetes. [3]

2. Helps women with gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes (GD) can be risky for both the mother and the baby. In mothers, it may increase the risk of preeclampsia while in babies, the GD can cause premature birth, stillbirth, large-for-gestational-age and even death.

According to a study based on 42 pregnant women with GD, capsaicin-containing chilli supplementation can help improve post-meal glucose hikes and high insulin and cholesterol levels in women with GD, and may also reduce the risk of large-for-gestational-age in newborns. [4]

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3. Maintains glucose homeostasis

A study highlighted the association between capsaicin and its role in improving glucose homeostasis and reducing the risk of diabetes. Glucose homeostasis refers to a balance between insulin and glucagon in the body to maintain blood glucose.

TRPV1 is a capsaicin receptor that is well-known for its activities related to oxidative stress, inflammation and pain sensation. A study says that consumption of capsaicin-packed chillis can help activate these receptors that may help prevent insulin resistance, cholesterol levels and lower inflammation, thus helping in the management of diabetes. [5]

4. Reduces the risk of obesity-related diabetes

Obesity is one of the major risk factors for the development of diabetes. According to a study, consumption of food items rich in capsaicin is linked to a reduced prevalence of obesity.

Capsaicin in chilli peppers, when consumed for the long term by overweight or obese individuals, can help show positive results related to weight management. As chilli can easily be combined with most recipes, long-term consumption is easier. Reduction of weight may help reduce the risk of obesity-related diabetes. [6]

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5. May prevent diabetes-related complications

Diabetes is related to a wide range of complications such as heart diseases, diabetic foot, eye diseases, infections, liver damage and many more. According to a study, capsaicin can help improve the function and metabolism of insulin and thus, maintain a balance of glucose in the body, probably by reducing body mass and cholesterol and improving glucose homeostasis. [7]

This may help reduce damage to micro-and macrovascular circulation such as blood vessels and nerves due to high glucose and prevent diabetes complications.

Downsides Of Chilli For Diabetics

1. May increase iron absorption

Some studies say that red chillies contain a large amount of vitamin C that can increase the absorption of nonheme iron from foods. Though it may help in the production and supply of red blood cells, excess of iron in the body can make poorly reactive free radicals highly reactive and increase oxidative damage to cells, including pancreatic cells. This may cause problems in insulin secretion and lead to insulin resistance.

Therefore, in people with diabetes or prediabetes, chilli can aggravate the condition and may lead to related complications. [8]

2. May cause gastrointestinal side effects

Chilli often leads to a sensation of heat and pain in the mouth and may cause various gastrointestinal side effects such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, burning sensation and flatulence. In people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chilli consumption can aggravate the condition. [9]

As we know improved gastrointestinal health is directly related to the good health of the immune system, which in turn, helps control and manage diabetes - disturbances in the prior can affect the immunity of diabetics and aggravate the condition.

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To Conclude

Chilli can be helpful for the prevention and management of diabetes, however, as it is a spice, one must be aware of its dose. Consult a medical expert for its proper dosage and other details.