Should individuals increase their intake of black pepper to help with various health issues like fighting inflammation, strengthening the immune system, and improving digestion?
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One of the most popular spices, black pepper offers anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects. Piperine is the compound that gives black pepper its flavor, helps prevent inflammation, (Gorgani Leila, et al., 2016), and helps to increase the absorption of selenium, vitamin B12, and turmeric. (Dudhatra GB, et al., 2012) Piperine has been found to be almost as effective as prednisolone – a common medication for arthritis – in reducing symptoms.
- Black pepper has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years because of its concentration of beneficial plant compounds. (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2023)
- Pepper is made by grinding peppercorns, which are dried berries from the vine Piper nigrum.
- The plant is a tall woody plant with small flowers that bloom a yellowish-red color.
- It has a sharp and mildly spicy flavor that goes with all kinds of dishes.
The following nutrition is for 1 tablespoon of black pepper. (USDA, FoodData Central)
- Calories – 17
- Fat – 0.2g
- Carbohydrates – 4.4g
- Sodium – 1.38mg
- Fiber – 1.8g
- Sugars – 0g
- Protein – 0.7g
- Magnesium – 11.8mg
- Vitamin K – 11.3mg
- Calcium – 30.6mg
- Iron – 0.7mg
- Potassium – 91.7mg
- Black pepper provides vitamin K, necessary for blood clotting, bone metabolism, and regulating blood calcium levels.
- Additional vitamins include C, E, A, and B vitamins, calcium, and potassium. (Platel K, Srinivasan K., et al., 2016)
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury, illness, or any mental or physical stressor, that triggers the body’s healing and repair process. However, long-term inflammation can lead to various health problems and, in individuals that begin to develop arthritis, joint degeneration. Damage to the body’s pain processors can exacerbate pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
- The main active component piperine, has been shown to decrease inflammation. (Kunnumakkara AB, et al., 2018)
- Chronic inflammation can be a cause of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and heart disease.
- While the anti-inflammatory effects have not been extensively studied in humans, there are several mouse studies that show promising results.
- In one study, treatment for arthritis with piperine resulted in less joint swelling and decreased inflammation markers. (Bang JS, Oh DH, Choi HM, et al., 2009)
- The active compound, piperine is rich in antioxidants, which prevent or delay the free radical damaging effects from exposure to pollution, smoke, and the sun.
- Free radicals are associated with diseases like heart disease and cancer. (Lobo V., et al., 2010)
- In one study, rats with a diet of concentrated black pepper had less free radical damage than a group that did not ingest concentrated black pepper. (Vijayakumar RS, Surya D, Nalini N. 2004)
Brain Function Improvement
- Piperine has been shown to decrease symptoms associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and improve brain function. (Ramaswamy Kannappan, et al., 2011)
Studies show piperine increased memory as well as the ability to decrease the production of amyloid plaques, which are damaging proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Blood Sugar Control Improvement
- Studies suggest that piperine can improve blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.
- In one study, individuals with insulin resistance took a piperine supplement for 8 weeks.
- After 8 weeks, improvements were seen in the response to the insulin hormone to remove glucose from the blood (Rondanelli M, et al., 2013)
Improved Nutrient Absorption
- Black pepper is considered to have the ability to bind and activate with other foods for improved positive health effects.
- It increases the absorption of certain nutrients such as calcium, turmeric, selenium, and green tea.
- It is often recommended to consume calcium or selenium with a source of black pepper and to ensure any turmeric supplement you take contains black pepper. (Shoba G, et al., 1998)
- Whole peppercorns sealed in a container and stored in a cool, dry place can last up to a year.
- Over time ground black pepper loses its flavor, therefore it is recommended to use within 4 to 6 months.
- If you believe you are allergic to black pepper, see a healthcare professional who can perform testing to determine the root cause of symptoms.
- Allergies can present as tingling or itching in the mouth, hives, abdominal pain, and possible nausea and vomiting.
- Symptoms can also include wheezing, congestion, and/or swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth, and throat.
- Black pepper can be substituted with spices like chili powder, cayenne pepper, and allspice.
The Healing Diet
Gorgani, L., Mohammadi, M., Najafpour, G. D., & Nikzad, M. (2017). Piperine-The Bioactive Compound of Black Pepper: From Isolation to Medicinal Formulations. Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety, 16(1), 124–140. doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12246
Dudhatra, G. B., Mody, S. K., Awale, M. M., Patel, H. B., Modi, C. M., Kumar, A., Kamani, D. R., & Chauhan, B. N. (2012). A comprehensive review on pharmacotherapeutics of herbal bio-enhancers. TheScientificWorldJournal, 2012, 637953. doi.org/10.1100/2012/637953
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Ayurveda, 2023. www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/ayurveda
USDA, FoodData Central. Spices, pepper, black.
Platel, K., & Srinivasan, K. (2016). Bioavailability of Micronutrients from Plant Foods: An Update. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 56(10), 1608–1619. doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2013.781011
Kunnumakkara, A. B., Sailo, B. L., Banik, K., Harsha, C., Prasad, S., Gupta, S. C., Bharti, A. C., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2018). Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked? Journal of translational medicine, 16(1), 14. doi.org/10.1186/s12967-018-1381-2
Bang, J. S., Oh, D. H., Choi, H. M., Sur, B. J., Lim, S. J., Kim, J. Y., Yang, H. I., Yoo, M. C., Hahm, D. H., & Kim, K. S. (2009). Anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic effects of piperine in human interleukin 1beta-stimulated fibroblast-like synoviocytes and in rat arthritis models. Arthritis research & therapy, 11(2), R49. doi.org/10.1186/ar2662
Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants, and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy reviews, 4(8), 118–126. doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902
Vijayakumar, R. S., Surya, D., & Nalini, N. (2004). Antioxidant efficacy of black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) and piperine in rats with high-fat diet-induced oxidative stress. Redox report: communications in free radical research, 9(2), 105–110. doi.org/10.1179/135100004225004742
Kannappan, R., Gupta, S. C., Kim, J. H., Reuter, S., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2011). Neuroprotection by spice-derived nutraceuticals: you are what you eat! Molecular neurobiology, 44(2), 142–159. doi.org/10.1007/s12035-011-8168-2
Rondanelli, M., Opizzi, A., Perna, S., Faliva, M., Solerte, S. B., Fioravanti, M., Klersy, C., Cava, E., Paolini, M., Scavone, L., Ceccarelli, P., Castellaneta, E., Savina, C., & Donini, L. M. (2013). Improvement in insulin resistance and favorable changes in plasma inflammatory adipokines after weight loss associated with two months’ consumption of a combination of bioactive food ingredients in overweight subjects. Endocrine, 44(2), 391–401. doi.org/10.1007/s12020-012-9863-0
Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R., & Srinivas, P. S. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta medica, 64(4), 353–356. doi.org/10.1055/s-2006-957450
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