The active ingredient within turmeric is curcumin and it's known for its prowess as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately though, it is also known for its very low bioavailability. This means that you can consume turmeric but can't easily absorb it into the body in order to benefit from it.
This is because turmeric dissolves in fat rather than water, and due to the fact that our digestive system contains quite a lot of water, we excrete the turmeric we ingest via our stools.
However there is a way to rectify this problem and it comes in the form of black pepper. Black pepper contains a substance called piperine, this substance is known to increase the bioavailability of nutrients full stop, not just turmeric.
The liver gets rid of foreign substances by making them water-soluble so that they can be excreted, and piperine can inhibit this process so that curcumin is not excreted. This explains how piperine can help to make curcumin more bioavailable.
Can help you lose weight
Previous research has found that black pepper and turmeric together can help you lose weight - the curcumin has been found to prevent fat accumulation and even help to burn fat while the piperine in black pepper has thermogenic properties. The word “thermogenic” literally means heat-producing. When your body burns calories, it generates more heat, so substances that boost metabolism or fat burning are considered thermogenic.
In 2016 a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reported on evidence found that curcumin can actually change fat cells. We have two types of fat in our bodies, white fat cells and brown fat cells. White fat cells are lazy, though don't do anything other than store fat while the brown fat cells are active, they burn fat to produce heat and energy. The browning of white fat cells is desirable as tipping the ratio of white to brown fat cells in favour of brown is one way to improve your metabolism and fight off weight gain.
Cognitive health booster
It doesn't actually matter if you're young or old, we all look for ways we can feel mentally sharper however memory impairment is something that we worry increasingly about as we age.
A 2010 study published in the journal Life Sciences found that curcumin can decrease memory impairment and this is in-line with other research that suggests both turmeric and black help may help protect cognitive ability and memory in Alzheimer’s disease.
Modern living means many of us are battling stress and anxiety on a daily basis and therefore fnding natural ways to manage our own mental health is becoming more important.
Turmeric and black pepper could well provide the answer - some research has found that adding piperine to curcumin resulted in a significant increase in its 'anti-depressant' effects, including boosting the neurotransmitter activity of serotonin and dopamine (signaling compounds in the body that help you feel good), compared to curcumin on its own.
A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology also found similar results; that curcumin on its own can increase serotonin and dopamine levels, but when administered in conjunction with piperine, there is even greater neurochemical activity.
Please note that the piperine in black pepper not only allows greater absorption of curcumin but has also been found to affect the way some drugs are metabolised and absorbed within the body. The consequences of this could be that some medications to have an increased and possibly dangerous effect. It's important that you always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements or dietary changes, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition and/or are taking other medications.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.