More Cayenne Smoothies, Anyone?

I make a mean smoothie, in more ways than one. It has all the requisite ingredients to make it delicious — strawberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries, blackberries, whatever I have handy (usually frozen). Some whey protein powder and a natural organic fiber. Some juice, some almond milk, some yogurt, maybe a little honey.

But then I add two ingredients that cause most sane people to run the other way: Spirulina and cayenne powder.

Spirulina people get, conceptually. It’s a “superfood,” laden with vitamins, protein, amino acids and many other things. But it’s green, it’s made out of seaweed and some people would just rather not have it.

But cayenne? Is this some hair-shirt type of thing?

I started adding cayenne because a nutritionist who practiced briefly at a wonderful Yoga massage place I visit in Borrego Springs (Devas Day Spa) told me I could address a health problem I had a couple years ago by drinking a gallon of water laced with honey, apple vinegar and cayenne pepper every day. I followed that regimen for about two days until I realized that no one has time to go to the bathroom that often. But she did manage to convince me cayenne was a good thing for circulation. And now that I’m used to it, I rather like the combination of fruity-sweet and spicy-hot. Maybe it distracts me from the spirulina.

And now, some validation, in this post from the Science Blog:

Capsaicin, the stuff that turns up the heat in jalapeños, not only causes the tongue to burn, it also drives prostate cancer cells to kill themselves, according to studies published in the March 15 issue of Cancer Research.

According to a team of researchers from the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in collaboration with colleagues from UCLA, the pepper component caused human prostate cancer cells to undergo programmed cell death or apoptosis.

Capsaicin induced approximately 80 percent of prostate cancer cells growing in mice to follow the molecular pathways leading to apoptosis. Prostate cancer tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of tumors in non-treated mice.

“Capsaicin had a profound anti-proliferative effect on human prostate cancer cells in culture,” said Sören Lehmann, M.D., Ph.D., visiting scientist at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the UCLA School of Medicine. “It also dramatically slowed the development of prostate tumors formed by those human cell lines grown in mouse models.”

Lehmann estimated that the dose of pepper extract fed orally to the mice was equivalent to giving 400 milligrams of capsaicin three times a week to a 200 pound man, roughly equivalent to between three and eight fresh habañera peppers – depending on the pepper’s capsaicin content. Habañeras are the highest rated pepper for capsaicin content according to the Scoville heat index. Habañero peppers, which are native to the Yucatan, typically contain up to 300,000 Scoville units. The more popular Jalapeño variety from Oaxaca, Mexico, and the southwest United States, contains 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units.

Cayenne pepper is another good source of capsaicin, less than the habanero, but more than the jalapeno. If I need more, I guess I could throw in some habaneros….


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