Peanut butter and jelly, salt and vinegar, rhubarb and custard; food is stuffed full of enduring double acts. One pairing less well known to the general public though is curcumin and black pepper extract.
An open secret among the wellness community, there’s a bounty of health benefits in taking both separately, from lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s to improving your blood sugar control. But together they compliment each other so well that it’d be rude not to put them together. A vital combo in our vegan protein powder, we take a further look into this match made in wellness heaven, taking a look at what the science has to say as well as some handy tips on adding them into your supplementing regime.
What Is Curcumin And Why Should You Take It?
We’ll kick things off with the exotic spice turmeric, or curcumin (turmeric is what we refer to the spice as curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric), a bright yellow powder produced by the Curcuma longa plant, a member of the ginger family.
It’s this bright yellow that hints toward the powerful anti-oxidant properties inside. Oxidative damage is thought to be one of the key drivers behind aging and many diseases, so anything that has anti-oxidant powers to combat this damage is a useful ally.
Another health issue that leads to several diseases, chronic inflammation, is also combated by curcumin, which some studies have shown is as, if not more, effective than some anti-inflammatory drugs.
Completing the trio is the effect of curcumin on a type of growth hormone that functions in your brain called BDNF. A lack of BDNF has been linked with a number of mental health disorders including depression and Alzheimer’s. But a 2012 study from Howard University looking into the effect of curcumin on depression, found a profound increase in the production of BDNF, which could lead to a delay, or even a reversal, of these mental health disorders.
The Surprising Benefits Of Black Pepper
It’s not just curcumin that is pulling all the weight in this relationship either. Black pepper is also a powerful source of antioxidants. A study on rats fed a high-fat diet plus either black pepper or a concentrated black pepper extract, found significantly fewer markers of free radical damage in the cells of those tested after 10 weeks compared to rats fed a high-fat diet alone.
Research suggests that black pepper may also have a significant effect on our blood sugar control. A 2013 study tested a supplement containing piperine (the bioactive compound within black pepper) on 86 overweight people and found significant improvements in insulin sensitivity after eight weeks, a measure of how well the hormone insulin removes glucose from the bloodstream. This is good news for anyone with Type 2 diabetes, but better blood sugar control can also help with feelings of lethargy and hunger.
Why Should You Take Curcumin And Black Pepper Together?
Right, enough with the stats and benefits we hear you cry. What is it about the two together that makes them especially potent? Well, one of curcumin’s greatest flaws is our body’s inability to absorb its nutrients effectively within the gastrointestinal tract. In Indian cooking, turmeric is usually heated in a fat, like oil, which can increase absorption (curcumin is fat-soluble). But the best way to boost the absorption ability of curcumin is by taking piperine at the same time.
In fact, research shows that combining piperine with curcumin can increase the absorption of the latter by up to 2,000 percent. The theory is that piperine makes it easier for curcumin to pass through the intestinal wall while also slowing down the breakdown of curcumin by the liver, and thus increasing the levels circulating around your bloodstream.
How To Take Them Together
In Ayurveda healing, the most common way to take turmeric is in a tea, alongside honey and ginger. However, most of the studies around curcumin use turmeric extracts that contain higher doses of the active compound. So just using the spice from the rack is unlikely to proffer many advantages (apart from the taste and aroma, of course). It’s in the supplement form where the magic happens.
Supplements will typically contain 95 percent curcumin. To put that into context, a supplement with half a gram of turmeric extract will provide an estimated 400 mg of curcuminoids, while the same amount of the ground spice will only give you 15 mg.
Likewise, piperine is the active compound you’re hunting for when it comes to the black pepper side. BioPerine is a patented extract obtained from black pepper fruits containing a standardized minimum of 95 percent piperine. Our Superblend contains BioPerine, while our Performance blend also boasts turmeric. After all, we weren’t going to let this pairing for the ages pass us by.