POSTED: Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 9:30am
UPDATED: Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 9:34am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Some guzzle beer to douse the fiery flavor of hot sauce, but as it turns out the heat of chili peppers may help melt away a beer gut.
Dr. Ali Tavakkoli of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has been studying an ingredient called capsaicin that gives chili peppers their intense heat.
He applied tiny cloths soaked with a capsaicin solution directly to the nerve around the stomachs of lab rats.
That destroyed nerve fibers that send signals from the gut to the brain.
It lead to weight loss.
"By selectively disrupting these signals that pass from the intestine to the brain, we have been able to change the way food is absorbed in the intestine," he explains.
If proven effective in humans, this could be a surgical alternative to bariatric surgery, which is performed on less than one percent of obese patients who qualify for it.
"There really is a group that this would be perfect for, and it's probably the super obese," says Dr. Stan Ashley.
Bariatric surgery is a major procedure, which can come with considerably greater risks for the morbidly obese.
The capsaicin application is still surgery, but much less invasive.
It appears to target so called "bad fat" that's located in the abdomen, around the organs and liver.
"It turns out that it's not really if you're fat, but where you're fat that matters," points out Dr. Tavakkoli.
Extra belly fat is associated with heart disease and Type II Diabetes.
It's too early to fill your belly with hot chili peppers.
Doctors say it wouldn't have the same effect.
You may have used capsaicin before; it's used in topical ointments as a pain reliever.