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Behind The Fat-Fighting Effects Of Black Pepper

(Photo: Brookston.org)
(Photo: Brookston.org)

I have to confess I didn't even know black pepper was reputed to fight fat. I'd heard tales of grapefruit, sure, and cayenne and celery and soup and dairy and more, but black pepper? Now, thanks to the American Chemical Society, I not only know it fights fat but that researchers have figured out how: Credit goes to a substance called piperine that also gives black pepper its taste. The press release:

A new study provides a long-sought explanation for the beneficial fat-fighting effects of black pepper. The research, published in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, pinpoints piperine — the pungent-tasting substance that gives black pepper its characteristic taste, concluding that piperine also can block the formation of new fat cells.

Soo-Jong Um, Ji-Cheon Jeong and colleagues describe previous studies indicating that piperine reduces fat levels in the bloodstream and has other beneficial health effects. Black pepper and the black pepper plant, they note, have been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine to treat gastrointestinal distress, pain, inflammation and other disorders. Despite that long medicinal history, scientists know little about how piperine works on the innermost molecular level. The scientists set out to get that information about piperine’s anti-fat effects.

Their laboratory studies and computer models found that piperine interferes with the activity of genes that control the formation of new fat cells. In doing so, piperine may also set off a metabolic chain reaction that helps keep fat in check in other ways. The group suggests that the finding may lead to wider use of piperine or black-pepper extracts in fighting obesity and related diseases.

This program aired on July 11, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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