6 Surprising Health Benefits of Black Pepper

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Black Pepper

If you are the type that likes to add a little extra black pepper to your food you may be in good company. It turns out that this age old spice offers a lot more to your health than you probably ever would have expected. A simple sprinkle could help improve digestion, support your brain, and fight cancer to name a few.

These 6 surprising health benefits of black pepper could make you reach for it, remove the cap and sprinkle more than the usual allotted three hole shaker allows.

Fat Regulation 

There have been many claims that spices such as black pepper can help assist weight loss but few studies that have proven such. However, a 2012 study by Korean researchers which was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry seems to hold merit. It states that,

“Overall, these results suggest that piperine [black pepper], a major component of black pepper, attenuates fat cell differentiation by down-regulating PPARγ activity [a nuclear transcription factor that regulates many genes] as well as suppressing PPARγ expression, thus leading to potential treatment for obesity-related diseases.”

Thermo-Nutrient In Action

Black pepper which comes from the unripe berries of the plant piper nigrum is considered “the most widely used and traded spice in the world” according to Princeton University. For centuries adding this spice to your meal has been believed to enhance nutritious compounds. Several studies now show how certain foods work in unison with black pepper which opens systemic bio-availability to increase nutritional effectiveness.

A study of the influence of black pepper on beta-carotene which supports healthy skin and vision and is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, was published in Nutrition Research (vol 19, issue 3) states,

“Supplementation with beta-carotene plus piperine for 14-days produced a 60% greater increase [of nutritional absorption]…We suggest that the serum response during oral beta-carotene supplementation is improved through the non-specific, thermogenic property(s) of piperine, described in this paper as thermo-nutrient in action.”

Anti-Aging Brain 

Researching the effects of black pepper on the brain has shown some impressive results from such an unexpected source.

Bio-organic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters published a 2012 study that showed how black pepper compounds prevent an enzyme that breaks down the full effects of the mood enhancing hormone serotonin and the sleep regulating hormone melatonin.

Also, a 2011 animal study in Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry cited that, “mice treated with piperine exhibited less immobility and higher levels of 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, a molecule that the brain uses to produce serotonin.”

Serotonin and melatonin are essential hormones that reduce stress on the brain which helps slow aging as a result.

Parkinson’s Hope

Working with black pepper compounds and the effect on brain function, scientists looked deeper and found that dopamine, another essential brain compound, was also affected.

Bio-organic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters reports a study showing that, similar to its effect on serotonin, piperine also inhibits an enzyme that prematurely breaks down dopamine. Loss of dopamine is one of the main causes of Parkinson’s disease. Using black pepper may slow this disease down.

The study also reported how the brain absorbs black pepper more than most other compounds showing that piperine may be a brain protector as well. This may be helpful in treating age-related cognitive decline such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Tumor Killer

Sprinkling black pepper on your food daily could create a tumor killing effect that just might help keep you out of harms way.

Researchers from the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, India published a review of diverse physiological effects of piperine in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (2007).

It was stated that,

“Dietary piperine, by favorably stimulating the digestive enzymes of pancreas, enhances the digestive capacity and significantly reduces the gastrointestinal food transit time. Piperine has been demonstrated in in vitro studies to protect against oxidative damage by inhibiting or quenching free radicals and reactive oxygen species…Piperine, while it is non-genotoxic, has in fact been found to possess anti-mutagenic and anti-tumor influences.”

Supports Swallowing Reflex

Sometimes stroke patients or elderly with varying physical deterioration will be challenged with compromised swallowing capability.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society cites a 2006 study by researchers from the Department of Geriatric and Respiratory Medicine, Tohoku University School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan. It was a randomized trial of nursing home patients with swallowing dysfunction who inhaled black pepper oil to stimulate a response.

The conclusion of this study showed not only the benefit black pepper compounds had on the swallowing reflex but that it can be applied regardless of physical or mental obstacles.

“Inhalation of BPO [black pepper oil] , which can activate the insular or orbitofrontal cortex, resulting in improvement of the reflexive swallowing movement, might benefit older post-stroke patients with dysphagia regardless of their level of consciousness or physical and mental status.”


These 6 surprising health benefits of black pepper show how an unassuming everyday meal additive is really a superhero spice. By the way, not all black pepper is the same. Lower end, inexpensive brands can contain mold and other compounds that could create toxins which may hinder black pepper’s effects. Stick to fresh, dried peppercorns ground in a good pepper mill each time you need a dash (or more). Pre-ground pepper is ok but if it sits too long it could lose its potency.