On websites all over the internet and indeed on this website, we bang the drums a lot about getting more nutrients. It’s especially important for your skin to increase your intake of vitamin A, zinc, selenium, magnesium and vitamin E, to name a few. Nutritional deficiencies are running rampant everywhere and that’s one big reason why acne is also running rampant…
…but there’s one problem. It’s not enough to simply eat more nutrients because in the modern world, our ability to efficiently absorb those nutrients is impaired. Westerners, particularly Americans, lack the diversity of gut flora to digest nutrients properly.
Our lifestyle is so sanitised that we don’t get exposed to healthy bacteria strains. Furthermore, our massive usage of antibiotics and pesticides like glyphosate are killing what useful gut bacteria we do have from prebiotics like yoghurt or cheese or sauerkraut.
In the end, taking all the vitamin A supplements in the world won’t do your acne any good if they just pass through your body undigested and untouched.
What can be done about this problem?
Piperine is an alkaloid found in both black pepper (piper nigrum) and white pepper, which are common household spices. It’s piperine that’s responsible for black pepper’s “hot” qualities since it’s a thermogenic compound, and it’s piperine that provides the pepper’s pungent flavour. Despite what you may read on the internet, piperine is found in near equal amounts in white and black pepper.
Piperine is quite a potent medicinal substance; it’s been linked to lowered blood pressure, increased serotonin production and consequently depression relief. It’s also known to inhibit cancer cell proliferation and the mutation of healthy cells.
Importantly for us, piperine can enhance the absorption of nearly all dietary nutrients in your small intestine.
Piperine boosts antioxidant absorption by 2000 percent?
One of the most powerful antioxidants in nature is curcumin. This yellow substance is found in turmeric and thus is abundant in fine Indian curries, Pakistani food, or any other spicy products. It’s responsible for many of the health benefits of turmeric. It’s good for acne too since it has strong anti-inflammatory powers.
The most famous of its wider health effects are cancer cell destruction and relief from joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s so potent that curcumin extracts are sold by many supplement companies now. Their adverts make many bold claims about tumour inhibition, DNA protection, etc.
The only problem with curcumin is that it’s absorption in the human body is pretty poor. Many studies show that curcumin is metabolised extremely quickly, does not boost blood levels when eaten alone, and is rapidly excreted from the body.
Hence, scientists conducted a study to see whether piperine could boost curcumin’s absorption. Both rats and healthy human volunteers were fed either curcumin on its own or curcumin mixed with a piperine supplement.
When curcumin alone was given to the rats, moderate serum (blood) concentrations were reached over a period of 4 hours. When piperine was added alongside the curcumin, the serum concentration of curcumin increased for a 1-2 hour period. Time taken to reach maximum concentration was significantly increased while blood clearance and elimination half-life significantly decreased. The curcumin’s bioavailability was increased by 154%.
The next result is the most impressive. When curcumin was given alone to humans, serum levels were either very low or undetectable. However, adding piperine produced far higher concentrations from 0.25 to 1 hour after administration. When taken with piperine, the bioavailability of curcumin in humans was increased by 2000%.
There’s other studies circulating around showing the same massive enhancements. In fact, the aforementioned supplement companies who are selling curcumin based-products are actually including piperine in their pills and powders these days with the purpose of enhancing their potency.
So how on earth does piperine enhance nutrient absorption so well?
Well, as for curcumin, your gut normally secretes digestive enzymes which break down curcumin rapidly. That occurs once curcumin is deemed to reach “excessive” levels, and those levels are quite low. However, piperine can inhibit those enzymes and thus prolong curcumin’s life enough so that it can get into the bloodstream. It reaches and heals cells across the body for longer than it usually would. Hence, piperine turns a marginally effective compound into one that works wonders.
What’s really important though is piperine’s effects on other digestive processes. Piperine can strengthen all manner of them; it can boost the activity of enzymes like trypsin, required to break down proteins, amylase, which breaks down starches, and lipase, which breaks down fats.
Piperine enhances the activity of amino-acid transporters in your intestine lining and thus makes your protein absorption more efficient. It can also move along dodgy fungal overgrowths like parasites and candida. Finally, piperine boosts the production of hydrochloric acid, which is needed to digest every single nutrient you consume.
Piperine provides a general enhancement of your digestive processes. Hence, any other acne-clearing nutrient could be a candidate for improved absorption, whether its antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, or healthy but uncommon proteins like proline and glycine.
Vitamin A is one such nutrient, and this study found that piperine enhances it well.
- Scientists used an extract of black pepper, consisting of 98% piperine by weight, on healthy humans. The goal of the study was to discover the effect of piperine on the absorption of beta-carotene (plant vitamin A). All patients were given a daily 15mg beta carotene dosage, alongside either a placebo or 5mg of piperine. The results were excellent: a significantly larger increase in serum beta-carotene occurred when take alongside piperine. In fact, piperine enhanced blood levels by 60% compared to placebo. The scientists concluded: “We suggest that the serum response during oral beta-carotene supplementation is improved through the non-specific, thermogenic property(s) of piperine”.
Why’s that good news? It’s simple – vitamin A is the number one nutrient for controlling your sebaceous glands. More vitamin A equals less sebum on your face, that equals less blocked pores, and that equals a face where acne has no chance to be born.
Then you’ve got this study on epigallocatechin-3-gallate, an antioxidant found in green tea…
- Scientists were interested in boosting the absorption of epigallocatechin-3-gallate and maximising its cancer-busting powers. Previously they had found that EGCG had a 1.6% bioavailability in rats and 26.5% in mice. Hence, they fed some male rice both EGCG and piperine to determine their effects on one another. The mice receiving piperine enjoyed a 30% boost in their EGCG levels compared with the others. The intestinal transit time of EGCG fell substantially, as did levels of EGCG 3”-glucuronidem, an enzyme that metabolises EGCG. In the piperine mice, less EGCG was excreted from the body. In the non-piperine mice, EGCG levels hit a peak at 90 minutes and declined thereafter; in the piperine mice levels stayed high until after 180 minutes. The conclusion is that piperine boosts the absorption of ECGC and allows it to remain active for longer.
That’s just one antioxidant. It’s likely that piperine can boost the activity of many antioxidant packed foods whether it’s a bar of dark chocolate, a fistful of pomegranate seeds or a plateful of broccoli.
What can you do with this interesting information?
It’s simple – go nuts with black pepper on any food you can.
Piperine can enhance the absorption of pretty much everything, so use it on whatever food you find tastes good with it. There are all sorts of possibilities.
For starters, you can take the studies above to their logical conclusions and use black pepper on curries and vitamin A rich foods. Any food that uses turmeric will be packed with curcumin as it’s the main active ingredient, so sprinkle any Indian dishes you can with hefty amounts of black pepper. Curcumin has some strong acne-clearing powers; it’s been linked to…
- Increased serotonin production and thus relief from stress and anxiety.
- Strong antioxidant activity in the body. Curcumin acts as an antioxidant itself and also boosts your body’s production of its own, like SOD and glutathione.
- Anti-inflammatory powers so strong that they’re comparable to pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs. Curcumin fights inflammation at a molecular level by inhibiting NF-KappaB.
Just yesterday a new study on spicy foods was published in the Chinese BMJ Journal. It followed nearly half a million Chinese people and it found that those who ate spicy foods once or twice a week had a 10% lower chance of dying young than those who didn’t bother. They attributed those benefits to a compound called capsaicin but curcumin is partly responsible too, as it’s been linked to extended lifespan before.
The relevance for your skin? All sorts of factors could be behind the benefits, but one of the biggest causes of premature death and aging is free radical overload.
As for vitamin A, beta-carotene is far more poorly absorbed than the animal based retinol; you intestine has to convert beta-carotene whereas retinol is pre-formed. Therefore its excellent news that piperine can enhance it. Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, butternut squash, eggs, and green vegetables are excellent sources of beta-carotene.
Those foods don’t taste good with black pepper. However, the effect will be the same if you combine sweet potatoes, for instance, and a pepper-laced steak in one meal. Basically, you just have to get the piperine and the vitamin A in your stomach at the same time.
Protein is a macronutrient which rarely gets attention from the acne-clearing community, but it’s very important as a main ingredient of collagen. That’s the structural protein in your skin that protects against inflammatory damage and helps your old acne to heal.
It’s lucky then, that black pepper tastes absolutely fantastic with meat products. Black pepper is a staple with steak and for good reason; the flavours complement each other well. I’d certainly advise you use liberal amounts of black pepper with any good protein source whether it be fried eggs, fish, steak, pork chops, or even dairy products if you’re especially determined. Also remember that white pepper is just as strong as black pepper.
To supplement or not to supplement?
Merely using black pepper will serve you well, but you can take things to the next level by using a supplement like Source Naturals Bioperine Black Pepper. These provide a highly concreted solution of piperine, usually far more than you’d get from black pepper alone. Additionally, there are no side effects from doses of piperine, according to studies.
Using a piperine supplement is just as simple as black pepper. Take the pill with any food where you want to dramatically enhance the nutritional absorption. Take it with vitamin A, protein, magnesium, selenium – whatever you specifically need.
In addition to nutritional enhancement, you’ll also enjoy other health benefits. Piperine has been linked to…
Cancer prevention – this study found that piperine inhibited the growth of cancer cells in the prostate. It also helped them to die earlier. Meanwhile this study found that piperine was useful against colon cancer. It had no effect on healthy cells like epithelial cells and fibroblasts but inhibited several cancerous ones. Piperine caused “cell cycle arrest” in cancer cells and weakened their membranes substantially. Hopefully these preliminary results will translate to a preventative effect on the whole human body.
Improved skin pigmentation – one study found that piperine could treat vitiligo, the condition which Michael Jackson suffered from where the melanin in your skin begins to die. After applying piperine to discoloured areas of the skin, the colour began to even out and in some cases returned to a very even brown with six weeks. Combining the piperine with UV light accelerated the darkening. The study was performed by using topical piperine, but it’s possible that consuming piperine will work all over the body.
Lowered blood pressure – this study gave rats piperine or a placebo for six weeks and noticed a decent reduction blood pressure by the end. This study on rats also found a dose dependant reduction in blood pressure.
Piperine is clearly a potent way to improve absorption of nearly all acne-clearing nutrients. Using piperine can enhance the effectiveness of many of your acne supplements whether its selenium, zinc, vitamin E, or rogue antioxidants like curcumin, resveratrol and many more. With black pepper being so freely available this is too good an opportunity to ignore.
We discussed at the beginning how our gut bacteria is crippled and how that’s crippling our nutrient absorption. Well, many of our foods contain less nutrition than they used to as well. The average vitamin C content of fruit has fallen by 40% in recent decades and the magnesium content of food has fallen by up to 80% in extreme cases.
This phenomenon is a result of both soil depletion and also excessive pesticide usage by farmers, which reduces a plant’s need to manufacture its own natural defences (like antioxidants). What’s certain is that maximising your nutrient usage is more important than ever today, unless your wallet is full to bursting point.
After discovering the magic of piperine I’ll probably be using black pepper on my meat every day from now on. It’s smart for you to do the same, particularly as meat tastes excellent with pepper and it’s a dead easy food to sprinkle it all over.
Thanks for reading!