Spices have been traditionally used in food for centuries now. Spices are some of the most versatile forms of food additives which not only enhance the taste and flavour of food, but also some with their own set of attractive health benefits. One of the most recognised spices is the black pepper.
About Black Pepper:
Black pepper is not just any spice. It is, in fact, referred to as the “king of spices”. Derived from the Indian plant, Piper nigrum, black pepper is extensively used in cooking and in various Ayurvedic medicine. Its spicy flavour has made it a top choice in many dishes. But it is not just the flavour that has made black pepper so popular. The active ingredient in black pepper: piperine, is recognised for its many health benefits and uses. The functionality of piperine has been extensively studied in recent times and much research has been conducted on it.
Many such scientific findings have highlighted the immense potency of piperine and black pepper in general. As such, black pepper is one of the most widely used spices in kitchens from all around the world. In addition, black pepper is also employed in several health benefits.
This article aims to analyse the research backing the diverse functionality of black pepper and demonstrate why this spice is so important. We will also get an idea of any possible side effects associated with the consumption of black pepper. It will be pretty clear by the end of the article on why black pepper and more particularly, piperine, is so much in usage today.
Health Benefits of Black Pepper (Piperine)
Research has established that black pepper has excellent antioxidant properties. As such, piperine is able to safeguard your body against damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Damage by free radicals may lead to harmful signs of aging, chronic inflammation, cell damage and even cancer.
A laboratory study has shown that black pepper can successfully inhibit the action of free radicals almost completely. This was tested in conditions that lead to the production of fat.
Furthermore, animal studies demonstrated that even in high-fat diet, the inclusion of black pepper into the diet significant reduced the potential damage by free radicals.
A very interesting study has noted that the antioxidant nature of piperine in black pepper could block out the functionality of cancerous cells in the body.
But that’s not all. Research has displayed that along with piperine, black pepper contains other potent compounds that work together to provide the powerful antioxidant action.
Good for the stomach
Research has demonstrated that the consumption of black pepper aids in the synthesis of enzymes in the digestive tract, thereby facilitating the absorption of carbohydrates and fats.
Some animal studies have shown that black pepper can effectively normalise the process of digestion and relax the muscles of the digestive tract. This helps to deal with diarrhea.
In fact, research has demonstrated that the effectiveness of just a minor quantity of black pepper matched that of medicines that are meant for diarrhea. Additional animal studies have displayed that black pepper helps to relax the muscular contractions of your intestines. As such, it helps in preventing diarrhea and its symptoms.
Research has also demonstrated that black pepper aids in improving the functionality of the pancreas in the digestion process.
Facilitates the absorption of nutrients
Black pepper helps in the better absorption of nutrients. In particular, black pepper is noted to aid in the absorption of curcumin. Curcumin is basically the active ingredient found in turmeric. So, black pepper and turmeric go amazingly well together in food. So much that a study has found out that the intake of black pepper boosts the availability of curcumin in the body by 2000%.
The absorption abilities of black pepper are not limited to turmeric alone. Studies have also shown that black pepper helps in the absorption of beta carotene which is typically converted to Vitamin A. Beta carotene is shown to act as a powerful antioxidant, and it helps to prevent the damage of cells and maintain good cardiovascular health.
Another study has surprisingly demonstrated that taking beta-carotene along with piperine helped in improving the blood concentration of beta-carotene more than beta-carotene supplements without piperine. This just goes on to say how well of an ingredient black pepper (piperine) is in the composition of any supplement.
Can help in decreasing cholesterol levels
There have been various tests conducted to note the functionality of black pepper extract in lowering cholesterol.
An animal study demonstrated that on a high-fat diet, the levels of both total cholesterol and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, that is, the bad cholesterol significantly decreased.
Moreover, it has been found that the intake of black pepper helps in the functionality of products that contain cholesterol lowering supplements such as turmeric or red yeast rice.
Possible side effects
Normally, the consumption of black pepper is not harmful in any way whatsoever. Samples of black pepper containing 5mg to 20mg of piperine is also absolutely fine.
However, studies have shown that eating too much of black pepper can cause an upset stomach and heartburn.
It should also be noted that black pepper has the ability to improve the absorption rate of other components. As such, the consumption of black pepper boosts the absorption and therefore, the functionality of other medications. Hence, one should be careful when using medications that are potentially dangerous.
If you have some health condition, you are strongly suggested to have a consultation with your doctor before you decide on consuming more black pepper.
Black pepper, is after all, a regularly used spice. As long as you are taking a decent amount, you should be absolutely fine.
We have often enjoyed black pepper in dishes without appreciating its presence as such. Not only does black pepper enhance taste and flavour, but it also helps in boosting the absorption rate of other components taken along with it. This property is known as bioavailability. The term bioavailability refers to the ability of an ingredient to get absorbed in its most potent state. Piperine is recognised as the best ingredient to promote the bioavailability of other ingredients.
The status of piperine as a bioavailability booster makes black pepper one of the best ingredients to be used in supplements and food alike. Honestly, there aren’t any notable dosage issues and people would find it too consume too much pepper in the first place! It’s a spice after all. However, be sure to be well-versed with the functionality of any medication that you might be taking and ensure that black pepper does not make the medicine harmful. With that being said, we strongly suggest you to include black pepper into your diet and enjoy the various benefits that it offers!