We hear a lot about weight loss in the summer months: what to eat, wear, and do to keep toned and healthy in time for beach season. Maintaining a healthy body weight is important all year long and as we know, there are numerous ways to achieve this. But a recent scientific study has highlighted an unexpected ingredient for healthy fat metabolism that is quite literally, right under our noses: black pepper.
Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the study zeroes in on piperine, a component of black pepper that lends its spicy signature. Black pepper has been used for centuries in Eastern herbalism, particularly for digestive health. This time-honored spice has also been known to support healthy fat metabolism. But nobody knew exactly why — until recently.
Spicy Talk: The Exciting New Field of Epigenetics
Our bodies rely on glucose for energy; however, excess glucose is often converted into fat and there are a number of genes that control this process. Researchers found that piperine in black pepper reduces the expression of these genes: In other words, it “quiets” certain fat-promoting genes, thus preventing them from turning glucose into fat. Furthermore, black pepper activates biological processes that prompt the body to metabolize fat more efficiently.
This discovery shines the spotlight on an exciting area of scientific research: The field of epigenetics. Epigenetics is a cutting edge branch of science that explores the language of DNA — specifically, how our genes operate in response to external influences. Advancements in this field show how various factors like diet, lifestyle, mental states, environment and more “talk” to our genes, changing their behavior for better or for worse. Even more fascinating, studies show that certain changes in gene expression can happen instantly, like a switch turning on or off.
In other words, we’re not chained to our “genetic destiny” like we thought. The implications are enormous.
Spicing Things Up
Any natural substance that can help encourage healthy weight offers important benefits. But if you’ve ever over-peppered an omelet, you’re probably asking, “How much black pepper can one possibly eat?” Fortunately, there are other ways to get the effects of piperine without having to assault your taste buds.