The habanero pepper is one of the hottest varieties of chili peppers. The Scoville unit of measure is directly related to a chemical called capsaicin. The higher the number of Scoville units, the greater the concentration of capsaicin.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, capsaicin can be used as a treatment for a variety of medical disorders. Because of the high concentration of capsaicin, consumption of habanero peppers can promote several health benefits.
Scientific studies have shown that consumption of habanero peppers can offer a beneficial effect against prostate cancer. A study performed by the Department of Hematology/Oncology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, revealed that the oral administration of capsaicin significantly slowed the growth and proliferation of human prostate cancer cells. The results of this study is promising for the use of capsaicin during the management of prostate cancer. It should be noted that this study was performed on laboratory mice; however, the results are encouraging, and research continues on the effects of capsaicin on prostate cancer in the human population.
A study published in the July 2006 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that when participants consumed a meal with capsaicin and a meal without it, their insulin levels were more normalized after consuming the capsaicin meal than the plain meal. This was especially true for overweight participants. The study indicates that the habitual consumption of meals containing capsaicin may be useful in preventing meal-induced hyperinsulinemia, or increased insulin levels, which can lead to insulin resistance -- and Type 2 diabetes.
Studies have indicated that the consumption of habanero peppers can be effective at fighting obesity because of the presence of capsaicin. According to the "Journal of Proteome Research," capsaicin increases thermogenesis throughout the body. Thermogenesis is the process in which the body raises its temperature, or energy output. Increasing thermogenesis increases the body's metabolism, which forces fat cells to be used as energy. The study published in the "Journal of Proteome Research" was performed by the Department of Biotechnology at Daegu University in Korea. The study confirms the presence of capsaicin increases thermogenesis and lipid metabolism, which is beneficial for the treatment of obesity.
Many scientific studies have been performed to evaluate the effect of capsaicin on serum cholesterol levels. A study performed published in the February 2013 "European Journal of Nutrition" revealed the daily capsaicin and other capsaicinoids in hot peppers help lower cholesterol levels. Researchers fed hamsters a high cholesterol diet and divided them into groups -- those that had no capsacinoids and those that consumed varying amounts. At the end of the 6-week study the results showed that capsacinoids reduced total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels, without reducing levels of good cholesterol. Researchers also found that capsaicinoids may reduce fatty deposits that have already begun to form in blood vessels and arteries. Cholesterol-reducing benefits were seen no matter what dose the hamsters were given.
There is scientific evidence showing that consumption of habanero peppers can be effective at lowering blood pressure because of the presence of capsaicin. A study published in "Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry" in June 2009 revealed that the administration of capsaicin raised levels of insulin-like growth factor. Insulin-like growth factor acts to reduce arterial blood pressure. The results of the study state that the presence of capsaicin was effective in lowering arterial blood pressure in hypertensive study subjects. The study also states that there were no blood pressure lowering properties when capsaicin was administered to study subjects with normal blood pressure.
When you eat hot peppers, the capsaicin in the peppers stimulates your nerves in a way that favors increased blood flow. This effect was tested on rats in a 1993 study published in the "American Journal of Physiology." Researchers increased the blood pressure in the veins of rats, inducing hypertension. One group of rats was injected with capsaicin and another group was given a placebo. A control group was administered nothing at all. When all the rats were tested for their cardiovascular health, the capsaicin rats' blood circulated similarly to the control group, whereas the placebo group had constricted blood flow. This shows that hot peppers increase circulation and might benefit people with high blood pressure.
Studies have also shown that capsaicin plays a role in cancer prevention. Researchers have demonstrated capsaicin hinders the growth of prostate tumors, meaning that spicing your food could prevent the onset of prostate cancer. In a 1997 study reported in "Anticancer Research," scientists introduced tobacco to hamsters to induce cancerous lung tumors. They gave one group capsaicin and the other group a placebo. The capsaicin group experienced less tumor growth in the lungs than the placebo group, suggesting that hot peppers may also help prevent lung cancer in those who smoke or live in polluted areas.
While not one of the more common types of cancer, gastric cancer, or cancer of the stomach lining, does occur, killing over 10,000 people each year in the U.S. Eating hot peppers may play a role in decreasing your risk of this type of cancer. A study published in the April 2007 issue of "Biochimica et Biophysica Acta" indicates that the capsaicin present in hot peppers induces cell death in gastric cancer cells.
Hot sauce can also boost your metabolism for hours after you eat it, which can help with weight management and the prevention of obesity, as noted in a June 2007 "Los Angeles Times" article. Further, an animal study published in the February 2013 issue of the "European Journal of Nutrition" indicates that eating a meal with hot sauce reduces levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. At the same time, it raises levels of GLP-1, which is an appetite-suppressing hormone. As such, by spicing your food with hot sauce, you may take in fewer calories than you otherwise would and better manage your weight.
Tabasco sauce, among other hot sauces, contains high content of vinegar, which is acidifying. Consuming too much acidic foods over time can cause a condition called acidosis, which can be dangerous if untreated. Some hot sauce can also contain high content of salt, which you should not consume in excess. According to the American Heart Association, you should aim to limit your sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams daily to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. One pack of hot sauce from a fast-food chain contains about 45 milligrams of sodium. If you use numerous packets, you could add a significant amount of sodium to a meal that might already be high in sodium. Consider making your own hot sauce if you consume it frequently to monitor the ingredients used.