Watch out salt, pepper just got even spicier! For most of our post-Gerber days, many of us have been aimlessly smothering black pepper on our meals to enhance its taste. Although this act is immediately delectable to the taste buds, what you can’t taste but might be happy to know is that black pepper is beneficial to your body in a number of ways.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers in Korea found that piperine in black pepper can block new fat cell formation. Pepper interferes with a gene that controls the process — known as adipogenesis — that results in those unwanted adipocytes, which serve as fat stores. As a result, your body can naturally inhibit the formation of fat cells and that unwanted flab.
The good news doesn’t just stop there. The journal Psychopharmacology featured a study in 2008 that suggested piperine expresses antidepressant activity when combined with the compound curcumin, a component of turmeric, which is the main spice in curry. Other studies suggest piperine serves a similar role by enhancing nutrient absorption in the body. It performs this task in a variety of ways: It can remove substances from cells, stimulate amino acid transporters, inhibit enzymes and alter intestinal activity.
Piperine also seemed to inhibit the growth of the tumor cells that result in colon cancer. Researchers at Doisy College of Health Sciences at Saint Louis University examined black pepper’s effect on cultured human colon cancer cells.
Based on their in vitro observations, the study concluded “that results taken together with everyday dietary availability of concentrations used in [the] study strongly suggest that regular intake of [piperine] offers preventive effects against colon cancer.”
If you prefer chili peppers to black pepper, there’s some good news for you, too. A compound known as capsaicin, commonly found in chili peppers, engenders an effect similar to piperine. Capsaicin is the substance that gives chili its pungency and that extra little punch that has you crying for some milk. In a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that the spicy substance diminished ghrelin, a hormone associated with hunger. Many revere these peppers for their ability to rev up the body’s thermogenesis, the process by which the body burns calories. In a study conducted at the Oxford Polytechnic Institute in England, researchers found improvements in metabolism that approached 20 percent. As a result, consumption can help you with shedding a few pounds (assuming you consume a generally healthy diet).
This brings back memories of the time I engaged in a cruel little food prank. My friend was exhibiting irrational behavior, so in retaliation I smothered copious amounts of hot sauce on my friend’s quesadilla to watch him cry (medically known as reflex secretion from the lacrimal gland). Little did I know I was simultaneously giving him an early boost to his health and wellness. So go ahead, Gauchos, in the name of fat inhibition, feel free to make those Freebirds nachos spicy!