Black Pepper: The Next Fat Fighter?

A recent study shows that black pepper, far from being merely a tasty accompaniment to salt, may actually interfere with the body's production of fat cells.

Researchers at several universities in Korea discovered that a compound in black pepper called piperine significantly inhibits the formation of new fat cells. While black pepper has been used medicinally for years, treating everything from gastrointestinal disorders to pain and inflammation, until now, science did not have a clear idea of what was piperine's exact role. It's worth noting that the studies were done in petri dishes using mouse cells, and the amounts of piperine used in the study were many times greater than what you might be expected to sprinkle on your food. So while you probably won't drop a dress size simply by dousing your dinner in black pepper, it might be worth adding another spoonful to whatever you're cooking for a weight-loss nudge and a general health and wellness boost.

But black pepper doesn't have a lock on the fat-burning market—peppers in general have developed a reputation as a go-to food for slimming. Chile peppers contain capsaicin, a compound responsible for their burning heat. Capsaicin has been cited in studies as a calorie burner, while other studies claim it simply suppresses appetite. Black peppers, while not as hot as chile peppers, do offer foods a flavorful kick that may help you be satisfied with less.

You can buy piperine capsules in health-food stores, as well as capsaicin, cayenne, and anything else that gives peppers their zing, but it can be more fun to grind your own pepper over your food. Omelettes, salads, soups, and stews call for the spice, of course, but more adventurous chefs have discovered the pleasures of whipping up treats such as black-pepper cookies and black-pepper ice cream. Devotees say the contrast between the sweetness and the heat is inexplicably satisfying.

Keep a shaker or grinder on hand and enjoy the health benefits of this popular spice. You may not lose all the pounds you want to simply by eating black pepper, but you'll gain a new appreciation for creative cooking and get some health benefits to boot.




Park U, Jeong H, Jos E, Park T, Yoon S K, Kim E, Jeong J, and Um S. (2012). "Piperine, a Component of Black Pepper, Inhibits Adipogenesis by Antagonizing PPARy Activity in 3T3-L1 Cells." Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 60(15), 3853-3860; Purdue University. "Study: Reasonable Quantities of Red Pepper May Help Curb Appetite." Web. April 25, 2011.

National Public Radio. "Black Pepper May Give You a Kick, But Don't Count On It For Weight Loss." Web. May 12, 2012.