Capsaicin (trans-8-methy-N-vanilly-6-nonenamide) is the molecule responsible for the spicy flavor native to peppers and hot sauce made from plants in the genus Capsicum. The compound is known to bind to TRVP1, a calcium channel protein on cells involved with pain and heat perception.
Besides adding spicy taste (piquancy) to food, capsaicin is used therapeutically as a topical ointment against painful peripheral neuropathies (trade name: Qutenza). However, recent research suggests capsaicin might interact or inhibit the effects of simvastatin (trade name: Zocor), commonly prescribed as cholesterol medication.
A publication out of Food and Chemical Toxicology, and international journal, describes the effects capsaicin have on simvastatin metabolism. Food-drug interactions are an important consideration (hence why doctors recommend against mixing alcohol with caffeine).
Researchers administered capsaicin to rats, as a metabolic proxy for people, for 7 days before administering a dose of simvastatin. The results are telling:
CAP (3, 8 or 25 mg/kg), ketoconazole, dexamethasone or 5% CMC-Na was given to rats for seven consecutive days and on the seventh day SV (80 mg/kg) was administered orally. The results showed that when a single dose of SV was administered to rats fed with CAP over one week, AUC0→∞, Cmax of SV and its acid metabolite was significantly decreased in comparison to the control treatment. Pretreatment of rats with CAP resulted in an decrease in the AUC0-∞ of SV of about 67.06% (CAP 3 mg/kg, P < 0.05), 73.21% (CAP 8 mg/kg, P < 0.01) and 77.49% (CAP 25 mg/kg, P < 0.01) compared with the control group.
Capsaicin appears to significantly inhibit uptake of sinvastatin, decreasing its bioavailability and therapeutic effects. Further human studies should be conducted, but this study offers reasons for people using cholesterol medication to avoid spicy foods.