Compounds in black pepper — especially its active ingredient piperine — may protect against cell damage, improve nutrient absorption, and aid digestive issues (2, 3).
A Powerful Antioxidant
Several studies show that black pepper acts as an antioxidant in your body (2, 4).
Antioxidants are compounds that fight cellular damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
Free radicals form as a result of poor diet, sun exposure, smoking, pollutants, and more (5).
One test-tube study found that black pepper extracts were able to resist over 93% of the free radical damage that scientists stimulated in a fat preparation (6).
Another study in rats on a high-fat diet observed that treatment with black pepper and piperine decreased free radical levels to amounts similar to those in rats fed a normal diet (7).
Finally, a test-tube study in human cancer cells noted that black pepper extracts were able to stop up to 85% of cellular damage associated with cancer development (8).
Along with piperine, black pepper contains other anti-inflammatory compounds — including the essential oils limonene and beta-caryophyllene — that may protect against inflammation, cellular damage, and disease (9, 10).
While the antioxidant effects of black pepper are promising, research is currently limited to test-tube and animal studies.
Boosts Nutrient Absorption
Black pepper can enhance the absorption and function of certain nutrients and beneficial compounds.
In particular, it may improve the absorption of curcumin — the active ingredient in the popular anti-inflammatory spice turmeric (11, 12).
One study found that taking 20 mg of piperine with 2 grams of curcumin improved the availability of curcumin in human blood by 2,000% (13).
Research also shows that black pepper may improve the absorption of beta-carotene — a compound found in vegetables and fruits that your body converts to vitamin A (14, 15).
Beta-carotene functions as a powerful antioxidant that may combat cellular damage, thus preventing conditions like heart disease (16, 17).
A 14-day study in healthy adults found that taking 15 mg of beta-carotene with 5 mg of piperine substantially increased blood levels of beta-carotene compared to taking beta-carotene alone (15).
May Promote Digestion and Prevent Diarrhea
Black pepper may promote proper stomach function.
Specifically, consuming black pepper may stimulate the release of enzymes in your pancreas and intestines that help digest fat and carbs (18, 19).
Animal studies show that black pepper may also prevent diarrhea by inhibiting muscle spasms in your digestive tract and slowing the digestion of foods (20, 21).
In fact, studies in animal intestinal cells found that piperine in doses of 4.5 mg per pound (10 mg per kg) of body weight was comparable to the common antidiarrheal medication loperamide in preventing spontaneous intestinal contractions (20, 22).
Due to its positive effects on stomach function, black pepper may be useful for those with poor digestion and diarrhea. However, more research in humans is needed.
This content was originally published here.