Piperine is a major active alkaloid component present in black pepper (Piper nigrum). It has been found to have many beneficial physiological properties and is safe as a food additive at the same time.
Piperine stimulates the enzymes of pancreas, improves the digestive capacity and speeds up the gastrointestinal food transit. It has been demonstrated to inhibit free radicals and thus to protect against cell damage resulting from lipid peroxidation. But the most important properties making piperine very popular as an ingredient of supplements are:
- its ability to make other compounds (other ingredients) more bioavailable (i.e. effective),
- its weight loss properties.
Piperine improves bioavailability
Piperine is a bioenhancer. Bioenhancers make other compounds, usually taken together in the same supplement stack more bioavailable thus enhancing their effects. Some substances possess beneficial properties but have a poor in vivo (i.e inside a living human or animal) bioavailability due to rapid metabolism. In other words the supplement or drug gets quickly removed from the body, which limits their effectiveness.
Piperine inhibits glucuronidation (metabolism) of drugs or compounds. Glucuronidation is a natural metabolitic process ocuring mainly in the liver and in the intestine. The compounds resulting from the glucuronidation are known as glucuronides and are more water solluble than the original substances from which they have been synthesized. By being more solluble glucuronides are easier to transport around the body and are easier to get rid of via urine or feces.
Glucuronidation of drugs or compounds results in a loss of their potency. By inhibiting this metabolic process piperine improves bioavailability of drugs and phytochemicals (links to studies: here, here and here).
Piperine weight loss properties
Piperine is also a potent weight loss supporting compound and is often used in fat burners. It has a multifaceted mechanism of action:
- Piperine increases the metabolic rate of resting skeletal muscles.
Muscles need to be fed just to survive (btw. fat tissue doesn’t). So by building up more muscle tissue you can effectively burn more calories even if you don’t work out at that particular day. It is called basal metabolic rate and the more muscles you have the higher it is. It could also work the other way around – having little muscles, burning less calories and getting more fat because the body stores the excess calories. Of course working out raises the energy demand of the muscle tissue. And here piperine comes into play and makes things more interesting.
Muscles use up less energy if their myosin heads remain in the super-relaxed state. Piperine causes a shift into the disordered relaxed state with a higher ATPase activity, i.e. decomposition of ATP into ADP involving releasing energy (link to a study). To put it simply even if you are watching tv your muscles burn calories as if you were working out.
- Piperine reverses also effects of an unhealthy diet (of course to an extent only).
If you develop unhealthy eating habits and don’t move enough you’ll get obese and your cardiovascular health will suffer as well. When you decide to put some effort into getting into shape again, piperine can be your secret weapon.
In this animal study rats were fed a high fat diet for 15 weeks to make them obese. After that the unhealthy feeding continued, but the rats also were given piperine in various dosages for 42 days. The health (i.e. body weight, body composition, fat percentage, adiposity index, blood pressure, plasma levels of glucose, insulin resistance, etc.) of all the groups improved with most noticeable changes at rats receiving the highest dose of piperine.
- Piperine shows synergistics effects with workouts.
Working out and making rational dietary choices helps to loose weight. Exercise increases your metabolism and given that you don’t increase your nutritional intake the missing energy will be derived from your fat tissue. Piperine can support the weight loss by raising your metabolism even further.
In this animal study mice were subjected an enforced exercise on a treadmill and some were also given piperine. All exercising mice showed a sped up metabolism, but the increase was bigger in mice given piperine.
To sum up this short article – piperine does really work. Whenever you find piperine (or its standardized form Bioperine) among the ingredients it has been added to make other ingredients more effective or to burn fat (or both).