Pepper health benefit Information by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
January 20 2016


Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a vine cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The same pepper fruit is also used to produce white pepper and green pepper. Black pepper is native to South India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. The pepper fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is a five millimeters in diameter, dark red when fully mature, containing a single seed.

Dried, ground pepper is one of the most common spices in European cuisine and its descendants, having been known and prized since antiquity for both its flavor and its use as a medicine. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine. Ground black peppercorn, usually referred to simply as "pepper", may be found on nearly every dinner table in some parts of the world. A trademarked form of piperine is called Bioperine and is available for sale as a supplement.


Capsaicin in Pepper

Capsaicin, which makes peppers hot, can cause prostate cancer cells to kill themselves. Capsaicin led 80 percent of human prostate cancer cells growing in mice to commit suicide in a process known as apoptosis. Prostate cancer tumors in mice fed capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of tumors in untreated mice. Capsaicin had a profound anti-proliferative effect on human prostate cancer cells in culture. It also slowed the development of prostate tumors formed by those human cell lines grown in mouse models. The mice ate the human equivalent of 400 milligrams of capsaicin three times a week. That is about the amount found in three to eight fresh habanero peppers, depending on how hot the peppers are.


Alzheimer's disease
Cell Mol Neurobiol. Jan 19 2014. Methanolic Extract of Piper nigrum Fruits Improves Memory Impairment by Decreasing Brain Oxidative Stress in Amyloid Beta(1-42) Rat Model of Alzheimer's Disease. The present study analyzed the possible memory-enhancing and antioxidant proprieties of the methanolic extract of Piper nigrum L. fruits (50 and 100 mg/kg, orally, for 21 days) in amyloid beta(1-42) rat model of Alzheimer's disease. The memory-enhancing effects of the plant extract were studied by means of in vivo (Y-maze and radial arm-maze tasks) approaches. Also, the antioxidant activity in the hippocampus was assessed using superoxide dismutase-, catalase-, glutathione peroxidase-specific activities and the total content of reduced glutathione, malondialdehyde, and protein carbonyl levels. The amyloid beta(1-42)-treated rats exhibited the following: decrease of spontaneous alternations percentage within Y-maze task and increase of working memory and reference memory errors within radial arm-maze task. Administration of the plant extract significantly improved memory performance and exhibited antioxidant potential. Our results suggest that the plant extract ameliorates amyloid beta(1-42)-induced spatial memory impairment by attenuation of the oxidative stress in the rat hippocampus.


Weight loss
A chemical found in chili peppers that is being touted as a weight loss aid may not be as useful as its manufacturer would like people to think. Japanese food maker Ajinomoto claims that this chemical-called dihydrocapsiate-is "a great tool for weight management" that helps people burn calories. However, researchers found no change in body weight and only a small increase of around 50 more calories burned per day after people took a pill containing the compound. They also did not find a significantly larger effect in high doses of dihydrocapsiate, for which they had chosen a goal of 75 calories burned per day. Scientists and nutritionists are interested in dihydrocapsiate as a dietary supplement because it is closely related to capsaicin, another chemical found in peppers. Capsaicin has already been shown to help increase metabolism, but because it is has an extremely hot taste, the less pungent dihydrocapsiate could provide an alternative. Researchers gave 78 healthy men a pill with 0, 3, or 9 milligrams of dihydrocapsiate once a day for 4 weeks. Ajinomoto's recommended daily dose for Capsiate Natura contains 3 milligrams of dihydrocapsiate, or the equivalent of 10 cayenne peppers. Capsiate Natura is only available in the U.S. through doctors-it's not yet available over the counter. Eric Ravussin, lead author of the study and researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said that his findings suggest the effects of dihydrocapsiate are negligible. Even with an increase in metabolism by 50 calories, any weight loss would offset it. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.


Press release 2008 - OmniActive Launches Hot Red Pepper Weight Management Ingredient, Capsimax Plus Blend
OmniActive Health Technologies, Inc., a supplier of active nutritional ingredients, announces the launch of a proprietary blend of Capsimax, its capsicum, or hot red pepper, ingredient. Capsimax Plus Blend is a combination of natural ingredients including Capsimax Capsicum Fruit Extract, and may increase the amount of calories burned before, during and after exercise. Other ingredients in Capsimax Plus Blend include the thermogenic agents caffeine and black pepper extract, as well as niacin (vitamin B-3), necessary for converting food into energy. The finished dietary supplement X12 containing Capsimax Plus Blend can be found at GNC stores nationwide. Capsimax Plus Blend was the subject of a recent double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over study conducted by the Biophysics Laboratory, Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma to research its effect on calorie burning in exercising individuals. Researchers found that when subjects took Capsimax Plus Blend one hour prior to exercising on a treadmill, they burned more calories before, during, and after exercise compared to when they took a placebo.


Food coloring
J Food Sci Technol. 2015. Red pepper (Capsicum annuum) carotenoids as a source of natural food colors: analysis and stability-a review. Carotenoids are increasingly drawing the attention of researchers as a major natural food color due to their inherent nutritional characteristics and the implicated possible role in prevention and protection against degenerative diseases. In this report, we review the role of red pepper as a source for natural carotenoids. The composition of the carotenoids in red pepper and the application of different methodologies for their analysis were discussed in this report. The stability of red pepper carotenoids during post-harvest processing and storage is also reviewed. This review highlights the potential of red pepper carotenoids as a source of natural food colors and also discusses the need for a standardized approach for the analysis and reporting of composition of carotenoids in plant products and designing model systems for stability studies.