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Life Sci. 2008 Jul 4;83(1-2):1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2008.04.018. Epub 2008 May 11.

Capsaicin-sensitive intestinal mucosal afferent mechanism and body fat distribution.

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VA Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center, VAGLAHS, North Hills, CA 91343, USA.


This report summarizes clinical and experimental data in support of the hypothesis that capsaicin-sensitive intestinal mucosal afferent mechanism plays a role in regulating body fat distribution. Epidemiological data have revealed that the consumption of foods containing capsaicin is associated with a lower prevalence of obesity. Rural Thai people consume diets containing 0.014% capsaicin. Rodents fed a diet containing 0.014% capsaicin showed no change in caloric intake but a significant 24% and 29% reduction in the visceral (peri-renal) fat weight. Increase in intestinal blood flow facilitates nutrient energy absorption and decrease in adipose tissue blood flow facilitates storage of nutrient energy in adipose tissue. Stimulation of intestinal mucosal afferent nerves increases intestinal blood flow, but decreases visceral (mesenteric) adipost tissue blood flow. In in vitro cell studies capsaicin has a direct effect on adipocytes. Intravenous capsaicin produces measurable plasma level and subcutaneous capsaicin retards accumulation of adipose tissue. The data on a direct effect of oral capsaicin on adipose tissue at remote sites, however, are conflicting. Capsaicin absorbed from the gut lumen is almost completely metabolized before reaching the general circulation. Oral capsaicin significantly increases transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 (TRPV1) channel expression as well as TRPV1 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) in visceral adipose tissue. In TRPV1 knockout mice on a high fat diet the body weight was not significantly different in the absence or presence of oral capsaicin. In rodent experiments, daily intragastric administration of capsaicin for two weeks led to defunctionalization of intestinal mucosal afferent nerves, manifested by loss of acute mucosal capsaicin-induced effects; but not the corneal afferent nerves, with preservation of the paw wiping reflex of the eye exposed briefly to dilute capsaicin. The latter indicated the absence of an oral capsaicin effect at one remote site. There was an accompanying decrease and an increase in the proportion of body fat in visceral and subcutaenous compartments, respectively. Taken together, if oral capsaicin could regulate adipose tissue distribution, the process might involve the effect of intestinal mucosal afferent nerves in modulating intestinal and visceral adipose tissue blood flow. The hypothesis that the intestinal mucosal afferent mechanism is a plausible therapeutic target for abating visceral obesity deserves to be further evaluated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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