Black pepper and health
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A description of the experience
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2007;47(8):735-48. Black pepper and its pungent principle-piperine: a review of diverse physiological effects. Srinivasan K. Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, India. firstname.lastname@example.org
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is one of the most widely used among spices. It is valued for its distinct biting quality attributed to the alkaloid, piperine. Black pepper is used not only in human dietaries but also for a variety of other purposes such as medicinal, as a preservative, and in perfumery.
Many physiological effects of black pepper, its extracts, or its major active principle, piperine, have been reported in recent decades.
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. Black pepper or piperine treatment has also been evidenced to lower lipid peroxidation in vivo and beneficially influence cellular thiol status, antioxidant molecules and antioxidant enzymes in a number of experimental situations of oxidative stress.
The most far-reaching attribute of piperine has been its inhibitory influence on enzymatic drug biotransforming reactions in the liver. It strongly inhibits hepatic and intestinal aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase and UDP-glucuronyl transferase. Piperine has been documented to enhance the bioavailability of a number of therapeutic drugs as well as phytochemicals by this very property.
Piperine's bioavailability enhancing property is also partly attributed to increased absorption as a result of its effect on the ultrastructure of intestinal brush border. Although initially there were a few controversial reports regarding its safety as a food additive, such evidence has been questionable, and later studies have established the safety of black pepper or its active principle, piperine, in several animal studies.
Piperine, while it is non-genotoxic, has in fact been found to possess anti-mutagenic and anti-tumor influences.