No Pain, Lifespan Gain
May 24, 2014

No Pain, Lifespan Gain

We have all heard the expression “no pain, no gain” before, and to be fair, it is not without merit. It is meant to tell us that without enduring some amount of hardship, we cannot hope to achieve anything. Unfortunately, this often is taken somewhat more literally. More in a “it’s going to hurt, but you will get something out of it.” A statement not always true. Growing up, I was often faced with a somewhat different saying, especially during martial arts/karate training – and yes, I have a black belt in Shotokan-Kempojujitsu – which was “if it hurts, that means you are doing it right.” Well, in my own experience, there are times when a little less pain in life can go a long way, and I especially know that to be true for those who suffer from regular bouts of chronic pain. Fortunately, there may be an answer for that on the horizon. One linked to, of all things, chili peppers.

Capsaicin is what makes chili peppers hot. It’s hot because it activates a pain receptor in our bodies called the TRPV1, or “transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1” for those who are curious, also known more simply as the “capsaicin receptor.” It has been documented that a regular intake of capsaicin may be linked to lower incidences of diabetes and various metabolic problems. According to Andrew Dillin, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkley, blocking the TRPV1 may in fact increase our lifespans and be of use in treating various metabolic conditions such as diabetes and even obesity.

Looking at past research, Dillin and his team were shown that lab mice lacking TRPV1 were better protected against diet-induced obesity, which is what suggests that it plays some sort of role in an individual’s metabolism. Other research still showed that blocking sensory perception also increased the longevity in creatures like worms and flies, but there was no real evidence to show that it would work the same in mammals. So, undertaking their own trials, Dillin and his team genetically altered a number of mice so that they lacked the TRPV1 receptor only to discover that these mice lived on average four months – about 14 percent – longer than normal mice. They also showed signs of a more youthful metabolism later in life due to their surprisingly low levels of CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide), which is a molecule that can block the release of insulin in the body and is thought to be a major contributing factor of type 2 diabetes. Throughout the lives of these altered mice, they continued to show a greater ability to clear sugar from the blood than normal mice and also proved that they could burn more calories without actually increasing their activity levels. All in all, these tests seemed to show the researchers everything they had hoped to see in their subjects.

As of now there has not been any announcement of human trials, but the results are already looking promising. As for me, I am thinking about adding a little more spice into my diet.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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