Call it nature’s outdated survival plan. Anytime one tries to cut calories in an attempt to lose weight, the body responds by slowing metabolism to match calorie intake and prevent weight loss.

Of course, in times when humans lived as hunter-gatherers and a steady supply of food was never a guarantee, this mechanism worked very well in helping one survive until the next meal could be found or caught. In fact, at one time, being able to gain weight quickly and hold onto it was a distinct genetic advantage!

Of course today, thanks to supermarkets, drive-thrus, and other conveniences, finding food isn’t quite the challenge it used to be. Unfortunately, our genetic programming has not adapted to this new environment and is still operating under the assumption that food is scarce and difficult to come by. So the very same genes that once worked in our favor today work against us when it comes to losing weight.

While we can’t change this ancient programming, understanding this natural cycle is one key to understanding how to lose weight and keep it off and is a major focus of The Center for Medical Weight Loss philosophy. Our goal is to understand and work with the body’s natural tendencies, as well as outsmart this “prehistoric” genetic programming that remains, to help people lose weight safely, successfully, and permanently.

That’s why I am so excited by the results of a recent study that found the same ingredient in hot peppers that makes our palates burn may also help boost metabolism! The supplement, called Capsiate Plus and manufactured by Ajinomoto Co., contains a compound found in hot peppers known as dihydrocapsiate. Research showed that when the prescription-only supplement was taken as directed, it could increase the metabolic rate enough to burn an extra 50 calories a day.

At first glance, 50 calories may not seem like much. And if one planned to take only the supplement and do nothing else, it wouldn’t be a very effective weight loss approach.

But, when combined with a plan that reduces calorie intake, the metabolism-boosting effect of the supplement could not only aid in weight loss but may also help offset the body’s natural tendency to slow the metabolism in response to a reduced calorie intake. Additionally, it could be useful in the maintenance phase to prevent weight from creeping back on. And I think that’s very exciting!

How? Let’s take a big-picture view. Over the long term, those added 50 calories a day burned can really add up. For example, in one month those calories add up to one-half pound. In one year, that’s six pounds! So that’s an additional six pounds of weight loss or prevented regain one could achieve by adding this weight management tool to an overall medical weight loss plan.

Other studies have linked increasing the amount of hot peppers in one’s diet to a similar effect, but unless you have a cast-iron stomach and a taste for fiery foods, it’s unlikely you’d be able to eat the equivalent of the 10 hot peppers a day’s worth of the compound the supplement contains.

Likewise, over-the-counter hot pepper supplements aren’t processed in the same stomach-soothing way as the prescription supplement and can lead to digestive distress. And because over-the-counter supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, how much of the ingredient they actually contain, if any at all, is not guaranteed.

For both these reasons, I believe and often recommend Capsiate Natura as part of the overall weight management program for my patients to purchase.

Again, weight problems are multifaceted, and there will never be one magic solution, pill, or potion that effortlessly melts the fat away. We may not like it, but the reality is people with a genetic tendency to gain weight will always have to work hard at fighting this programming. But with the right tools like this supplement and a medically proven weight loss program that works, physicians like myself can help even the most genetically “challenged” weight gainers face this ancient but outdated programming and win the battle of the bulge!