Our eastern ancestors strike again, somehow knowing about the health benefits of black pepper before anybody else. First and still primarily cultivated in India, piper nigrum is the plant that produces black pepper. When the fruit of this plant dries it is referred to as a peppercorn and when ground it becomes what we know as pepper the condiment.
Most of us in the west enjoy pepper as a flavor enhancer on most of our foods, but did you know it was originally used thousands of years ago as medicine to treat gastronomical stress, bodily pain, inflammation and other disorders? More recently new health benefits of black pepper have been revealed and are quite unique. Stay tuned to learn how this everyday condiment can help you stay healthy in various ways!
Black Pepper For Nutrient Absorption
Black peppercorns come from the dried fruit of the plant piper nigrum, and the active ingredient in the peppercorns we need is called piperine. When found in supplement form it is usually labelled as “black pepper extract” or “Bioperine”, and while not proven to be more effective, the latter is known as the more bioactive version of the supplement. So what are these impressive health benefits I keep hinting at? The most studied and understood mechanism of piperine is its ability to inhibit the metabolism of certain enzymes.
This happens because of a process in the liver called glucuronidation, in which a molecule known as a glucuronide attaches itself to certain drugs and nutrients, rendering them ineffective and ultimately excreting the drugs and nutrients through the urine. This process acts as the body’s safety net, as it flushes out excess drugs and supplements in the body (and sometimes completely hinders absorption, rendering some drugs and supplements useless). Of course this can be a negative for people who take daily medication, but for most it does more good than bad. By inhibiting this molecule, there are various nutrients that are absorbed much more efficiently with less waste. Because along with some drugs, glucuronide impairs the absorption of vitamin B6, vitamin C, CoQ10, selenium, EGCG, and curcumin.
Put into simpler terms, if you take vitamins or eat foods that contain any of these nutrients, taking bioperine alongside it will increase its absorption into the body from 50% in selenium to 2000% in curcumin.
Black Pepper For Fat Loss?
While little research has proved that bioperine helps with fat loss, it is still heavily marketed as such. It all began in 2012 when a Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry study discovered piperine could hinder the development of new fat cells. These studies were done in test tubes, but in some cases the results can be duplicated in the human body. Now to the uninformed reader this sounds great! I can eat black pepper with every meal and just watch the fat drop off right? Not so fast, there is a fundamental difference between burning fat and stopping the development of new fat cells, which everybody should be aware of.
Between infancy and maturity our body creates fat cells for various purposes, ranging from keeping us warm to hormone development. Once we hit maturity our body stops making fat cells (granted we stay a constant body fat percentage). What’s important to remember is that we cannot burn off fat cells. We can shrink the fat cells by burning off the fat inside of the cell, but the cell itself will always be there whether you are 5% body fat or 30% body fat.
What this means for black pepper is that yes it may be able to stop new fat cells from forming, but if your diet mostly consists of a surplus of calories from junk you will still be expanding the fat cells you already have. While it might be possible to spice up all of your children’s meals with black pepper to try and keep their development of fat cells in check, more than likely it will not have that great of an impact on a mature adult. What you should be focusing on is staying at a healthy weight because it is always possible to gain new fat cells that will be with you your entire life. And unfortunately, the more fat cells you have, the harder it is to sustain a lower body fat percentage.
Take Home Message
The benefits of black pepper have seemingly been blown out of proportion in the past few years. Most stores or websites that sell piperine always highlight the fat burning aspects while completely neglecting the nutrient absorption benefits.
Just to reiterate the important aspects of this article, piperine (the main compound in black peppercorns) is extremely useful to maximize the absorption of vitamin B6, vitamin C, CoQ10, selenium, EGCG, and curcumin in the body. And while it has some promise in the field of preventing the growth of new fat cells, that doesn’t mean it will do anything to burn fat from your existing fat cells. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to learn a little bit about this everyday household condiment and stay healthy!