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Cayenne and its effect in gastric cancer.

Resolved Question:

I've recently started some nutritional supplements to help bring my (prehypertensive) blood pressure down, including garlic and cayenne pepper. This seems to be working as I've experienced some very nice improvement. I also like cayenne for its potential to aid metabolism and weight loss and its benefit for the cardiovascular system, among other things.

Recently, I found some studies indicating cayenne could be associated with gastric cancers in populations who consume a lot of them, while seemingly being protective against others (possibly prostate in particular):

The form I use is GNC Whole-Herb Cayenne, and since finding this out, I reduced from 2,000 mg per day (4 caplets divided between morning and night) down to 500 mg (1 caplet in the morning). Maximum dosage recommended on the bottle is actually 3,000 mg (6 caplets).

I do also eat spicy food on top of this (particularly Thai) fairly often, but also not every day...maybe 2-3 times a week.

In your opinion, is it relatively safe to continue supplementing a low (500 mg) daily dose of whole-herb cayenne along with the garlic and other other supplements? Or is it too much of a potential risk for the possible benefits?

Thanks much!

Category: Gastroenterologist, Medical

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Category: Hepatologist
Dr. Ratnakar Kini is online now

Expert:  Dr. Ratnakar Kini replied 4 Days.

Thanks for posting your query.
I am Dr.R.K and I am pleased to assist you.

Though you have quoted few reference, there are not enough studies which categorically link Cayenne to gastric cancer.
Apart from the Mexican studies, I am not able to find any good study which links Cayenne to gastric cancer.
Animal studies also do not consistently demonstrate carcinogenic effects following chronic consumption of cayenne.
Textbooks also quote just the Mexican study and not anything else.

Whatever reports available say that it is the dose that matters and not the frequency. But there is no clear mention on what is the carcinogenic dose.
So till more evidence is available it is difficult to say whether the low dose you take daily is safe or not.
But it is prudent to stop taking them on a daily basis.
You can have garlic, pepper as a part of your balanced diet along with fruits vegetables, beans which will be more healthy than eating one particular food in large amounts. Continue with your exercise.

I hope that answers your question.
Let me know if I can assist you further.

Patient replied :

Hi Dr.R.K. and thank you very much for your very thorough response!

One followup. I also take 1,800 mg total EPA+DHA fish oil. Primary purpose is to help with dry eye (as suggested by my eye doctor) but also to assist with blood pressure, cholesterol management, etc. I know there are similar studies linking high levels of DHA+EPA in the blood to prostate cancer, but nothing conclusive saying fish oil is the cause, and cayenne is thought to possibly combat prostate cancer.

Given the questionable nature of the Mexican studies (as well as the fish oil ones), is your recommendation still to discontinue cayenne for now until further data is available? I'm also curious to hear your opinion on fish oil.

I do try to eat a wide variety of food, including spicy food and a lot of different vegetables and fruits.


Expert:  Dr. Ratnakar Kini replied 3 Days.

Thanks for getting back to me with more questions.

The link between fish oil and prostate cancer again is not categorically proved. The study which links fish oil with prostate cancer is flawed.
So I do not accept it.
Moreover even if it is true , how it causes prostate cancer is not clearly known. There are many pathways by which a carcinogen can induce cancer. So it is difficult to say whether cayenne prevent prostate cancer by the same way by which fish oil causes cancer.

So unless more studies are available I do not want to link these supplements with cancers.
But since there is a doubt about the carcinogenic effect, it is better to avoid daily intake of cayenne pepper on a long term basis.
You can continue your intake of fish oil.

I hope this has helped.

Patient replied :

Thanks much for the reply!

So from what you're saying, you think the benefits of fish oil versus 1 flawed study outweigh the possible harm and I can continue the fish oil without modification.

On the other hand, while still not categorically proven and still controversial, the trend of multiple population studies seems to be that capsaicin could be carcinogenic if used too often, so I should discontinue my daily supplementation of it until more evidence becomes available. I will still eat it in moderation in foods I enjoy - just not supplement extra.

This makes sense and I think I'll discontinue cayenne until my next visit with my primary and discuss with her. Hopefully my blood pressure will stay good without it at this point.


Expert:  Dr. Ratnakar Kini replied 2 Days.

Hello and thankyou for your reply.
Yes you have put it down rightly. Continue the fish oil and stop cayenne pepper. Yes you can have it in moderation in your food.
Continue exercising and working on your weight and that will help your blood pressure.

I hope this has helped.
Wishing you good health!!

Patient replied :

Hello and thankyou for your reply. Yes you have put it down rightly. Continue the fish oil and stop cayenne pepper supplements. Yes you can have it in moderation in your food. Continue exercising and working on your weight and that will help your blood pressure. I hope this has helped. Wishing you good health!!Thankyou

Dr. Ratnakar Kini
Category: Hepatologist
Fellowship - DM - TN Dr.MGR Medical UniversityResidency - TN Dr.MGR Medical University Medical School - Stanely Medical College, TN Dr.MGR Medical University
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