The supposed fat-fighting potential of black pepper may have been unravelled, after researchers revealed that the ‘pungent’ compound found in the spice could block the formation of new fat cells.
The study – published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry – identifies piperine from black pepper extracts as having potential to fight obesity by blocking the creation of fat cells (known as adipocytes).
“Our findings suggest that piperine, a major component of black pepper, inhibits fat cell differentiation by down-regulating the transcriptional activity of PPARγ (and LXRα) and suppressing the expression of PPARγ (and LXRα),” said the researchers, led by Soo-Jong Um from Sejong University, Korea.
Black pepper benefits
Black pepper and the black pepper plant have been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine to treat gastrointestinal distress, pain, inflammation and other disorders.
Um and his colleagues noted that previous studies have indicated piperine reduces fat levels in the bloodstream. In addition to its benefits for weight management, piperine has been suggested to be involved in increasing the absorption of other nutrients in the body. The extract is also suggested to have anti-cancer properties, and could enhance cognitive functions and provide anti-depressant effects.
Despite a long history of traditional uses, and new research suggesting wide ranging benefits, researchers still know little about how piperine works to aid weight management at the cellular level, said the researchers.
Um and his colleagues investigated the underlying mechanisms of the fat-fighting activity of black pepper extract and its constituent piperine – finding that both black pepper extract and piperine strongly inhibited the fat cell differentiation of 3T3-L1 cell, without affecting cytotoxicity.
“We found that Piper nigrum Linne [back pepper] extract and its constituent piperine reduce lipid storage in 3T3-L1 cells and block their differentiation into adipocytes.”
They revealed that both black pepper extract and piperine reduced the expression levels of key transcription factors associated with adipogenesis – including PPARγ, SREBP-1c, and C/EBPβ.
In doing so, the compound may also set off a metabolic chain reaction that helps keep fat in check in other ways, suggested the researchers.
They added that the findings may lead to the wider use of piperine or black-pepper extracts in fighting obesity and related diseases.
Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Volume 60, Issue 15, Pages 3853–3860, doi: 10.1021/jf204514a
“Piperine, a Component of Black Pepper, Inhibits Adipogenesis by Antagonizing PPARγ Activity in 3T3-L1 Cells”
Authors: U-H. Park, H-S. Jeong, E-Y. Jo, T. Park, S.K. Yoon, E-J. Kim, J-C. Jeong, S-J. Um