DR MARK J. WINTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR MARK J. WINTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Capsaicin. Computer model of a molecule of capsaicin, the chemical that gives chilies their heat. Atoms are represented as spheres and are colour-coded: carbon (silver), hydrogen (light blue), oxygen (red) and nitrogen (dark blue). This chemical causes a burning sensation when ingested. It is a secondary metabolite of the chili plant (Capsicum sp.) and probably evolved to deter herbivores. As of 2006, capsaicin is being investigated as a potential treatment for prostate cancer, as it has been shown to promote prostate tumour cell death in culture. The increased consumption of chilies is not recommended as a preventative measure against prostate cancer because capsaicin has been linked with stomach cancer.
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