Black Pepper: Diet Weapon?

Black pepper
The same ingredient in black pepper that adds taste to your meals may also help keep you slim.

New research, which identifies the flavor compound piperine as black pepper’s secret fat-fighting weapon, concludes that pepper works by blocking the formation of new fat cells in the body. Other foods, such as the compound piceatannolthat is found in red wine, peanuts, and grapes, have also been recently found to have the same effect.

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Prior to this study, little was known about how piperine works to control fat cells, researchers wrote in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a journal published by the American Chemical Society (ACS). Piperine works to fight fat by interfering with adipogenesis, or the gene activity that causes fat cells to form and mature, researchers found. In doing so, the compound may also set off a chain reaction that helps control fat in other ways, the researchers said in an ACS release.

It takes immature fat cells, called preadipocytes, about 10 days to go through adipogenesis. Once the process is complete, fat cells are significantly more difficult to shrink through a healthy diet and fat-burning exercise.

Before you start sprinkling pepper on everything you eat, know that more research needs to be done to determine how much black pepper is needed to consume blocking fat-cell growth. Similarly, researchers say that piperine in capsule form is also a long way off. (The study was not a clinical trial on humans, but rather a laboratory experiment that tested the compound’s effect on animal fat cells).

Past research has found that black pepper can reduce pain and inflammation, stabilize blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, and lower levels of blood fat, or lipids, all of which are key to reversing the Western world’s obesity epidemic, researchers say. In the future, scientists believe that piperine may be able to be made available as an all-natural weight loss supplement.

If further studies confirm these effects, researchers say black pepper may offer a natural alternative for the treatment of fat-related disorders like obesity.

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