Chilli could be next on the menu to fight flab

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Cakes which may help you burn off calories could soon be available in the UK.

A slimming aid, found in chilli peppers, speeds up the body's metabolism and could be added to foodstuffs, including desserts, a food company claims.

The extract, dihydrocapsiate (DHC), is one of several chemical compounds known as capsinoids found in a particular variety of chilli, called CH-19 sweet.

They increase the body's metabolism - helping to burn more calories - and unlike similar extracts in other chilli varieties, they do not cause the burning sensation of hot peppers. They also have no taste or odour.

Tokyo-based company Ajinomoto plans to produce DHC synthetically because chilli peppers only produce small amounts. They say three milligrams of DHC would be added to a portion of food - the equivalent of ten chilli peppers. An application has been made to the Food Standards Agency for a licence to market DHC in the UK.

Ajinomoto spokeswoman Naoko Obara said DHC was not a "magic bullet" in the battle against the bulge, but said it was "unique" among weight loss aids.

She said: "Most weight management aids focus on caloric intake. Capsinoids are unique in targeting the other side of the equation, the caloric output.

"Increasing the body's metabolism to burn more calories can be as important as diet and exercise. But it should be used as one piece of the overall weight management equation."

The company applied for a "novel foods" licence from the Food Standards Agency last year to allow it to market the product in the UK and the EU.

It has since been declared safe after studies showed DHC can increase the burning of body fat and overall calorie expenditure. But it is now down to the European Commission to decide whether it can be sold or not.