Why Black Pepper May Be Your Weight Loss Friend
Black pepper is much more than a companion to the salt on your table: it may be your weight loss friend. A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reveals why an ingredient in black pepper called piperine may help you lose weight.
Hold the salt, shake on black pepper
Piperine is an alkaloid that is responsible for black pepper’s unique taste. It can be extracted from black pepper (Piper nigrum) and is claimed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even cancer fighting properties.
A 2010 study examined the metabolism boost associated with piperine and black pepper in mice fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet. The investigators found that visceral fat weights declined significantly in mice fed diets that contained 0.03% and 0.05% piperine, and that body weight and visceral fat weights declined significantly in mice fed a diet that contained 1.0% black pepper. The authors concluded that black pepper “suppresses the effect of body fat accumulation mainly through the action of piperine.”
In the new study, Soo-Jong Um and colleagues explored how piperine works at a molecular level to reduce levels of fat in the blood. Using lab studies and computer models, they discovered that piperine disrupts the activity of genes that regulate the formation of new fat cells and may control fat in other ways as well.
These findings are important because they enhance experts’ understanding of how piperine works and can thus lead to new ways to use piperine or black pepper extracts to help people lose weight and tackle weight-related diseases.
Other benefits of piperine
In an Australian study, researchers had two groups of rats and fed one a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that modeled human metabolic syndrome and a cornstarch diet to the other. The diets were followed for 16 weeks, and during the last 8 weeks, the rats in both groups were also given piperine.
The rats in the high-fat, high-carb group experienced high blood pressure, elevated oxidative stress, abdominal obesity with liver fibrosis, impaired glucose tolerance, and inflammation-related heart changes. However, supplementation with piperine (about 30 mg/kg/day) lowered blood pressure, improved glucose tolerance, reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, and improved liver function.
Piperine is frequently an ingredient in supplements because it can enhance absorption and bioavailability of other ingredients. For example, a recent study in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research reported that piperine increased the exposure of resveratrol by 229% when compared with resveratrol alone. Black pepper and piperine have also been used to manage gastrointestinal disorders.
The findings of this new study promote the possibility of using the black pepper extract piperine to fight obesity. Although piperine is currently available as a supplement, further research is needed to determine how it can be used to facilitate weight loss.
Diwan V et al. Piperine attenuates cardiovascular, liver and metabolic changes in high carbohydrate, high fat-fed rats. Cell Biochem Biophys 2011 Oct 30
Johnson JJ. Enhancing the bioavailability of resveratrol by combining it with piperine. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2011 Aug; 55(8): 1169-76
Mehmood MH, Gilani AH. Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of black pepper and piperine in gastrointestinal disorders. J Med Food 2010 Oct; 13(5): 1086-96
Okumura Y et al. Adiposity suppression effect in mice due to black pepper and its main pungent component, piperine. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2010; 74(8): 1545-49
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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