Piper nigrum Linne, the plant that gives us black pepper, has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries to reduce pain, tame indigestion and even treat cholera.

Now we may be able to add “help you lose weight and stay slim” to that list.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Adding something to a meal (something, I might add, that’s delicious and probably already in your kitchen cabinet), rather than denying yourself something, might actually lead to weight loss.

hat’s the kind of news that I like to see.

So I called up the lead researcher to find out more about how we can use black pepper to drop unwanted pounds.

SEASONING THAT BLASTS FAT

Korean researchers wanted to see whether black pepper extract—and more specifically, whether a component of black pepper extract called piperine—would have an effect on lipids (fats) in cells from mice. So they added either black pepper extract or the same amount of piperine to cells from mice in petri dishes and observed what happened over 10 days.

They found that both were very helpful at fighting fat. Black pepper extract reduced lipids in cells by 35% and piperine, specifically, reduced lipids by 45%, compared with a control group where nothing was added to the cells.

How come? Researchers discovered that piperine suppresses the gene that helps fat cells develop. So that’s the secret fat-fighting ingredient in black pepper!

MORE PEPPER, PLEASE

When I spoke with one of the study’s authors, Ui-Hyun Park, PhD, he said that there have not yet been studies to see whether adding piperine—or even just plain black pepper—to one’s diet would lead to weight loss. But Dr. Park pointed out that even small amounts of piperine and black pepper extract were able to block fat formation in his experiment. So it’s possible that sprinkling even a little pepper on your food might help you lose weight or keep weight off.

I asked Dr. Park if it matters whether the pepper is preground or freshly ground, and he said that though freshly ground pepper will taste better, it probably doesn’t offer any greater benefit.

So why not add a bit of pepper to your meals to enjoy tastier food that will help keep you trim? Sure, this was only a study done on mouse cells in petri dishes—so the research is young—but spicing up your life can’t hurt.