Bioperine is the trademarked name of a patented form of pepper that has been standardized and purified for 95% piperine content, and is used to increase the absorption of certain compounds. It’s often included in dietary supplements to increase the bioavailability of virtually everything, from vitamins and minerals to protein and amino acids to prohormones.
But there’s zero evidence that it has any effect on protein or amino acids…or anything except vitamins, minerals, and one single specific herb. There’s zero evidence that it’s going to boost the effects of BCAAs, creatine, Beta-alanine, or most of the really popular ingredients on the sports nutrition market…even with the most generous interpretation of its mechanism of action.
This doesn’t mean it’s bad or doesn’t work, it simply means that people (both formulators and consumers) don’t necessarily understand how it works or what ingredients it’s appropriate to use it with.In truth, I have only seen peer-reviewed studies where Bioperine was proven to boost absorption of four different compounds (found on the Bioperine.com website but cross-checked with The National Institute of Health):
- β-carotene (a fat-soluble vitamin)
- CoQ10 (a coenzyme, also fat-soluble)
- Curcumin (an herb)
- Iron (a mineral)
The site additionally lists two more micronutrients that Bioperine works with, but fails to provide a study or citation, and none exist in the NIH database:
- Selenium (another mineral)
- Vitamin b6 (a water-soluble vitamin)
It has also been examined in conjunction with resveratrol, but the only study I could find on the TM’ed ingredient (and which was the only one posted on the Bioperine.com website) looked at neither bioavailability nor absorption (more on that later).
It’s important to realize that all of the studies proving the speciyfic efficacy of the trademarked product Bioperine were funded by the company selling it. That’s not a huge deal, because nobody is going to study your proprietary ingredient for free, but it’s worth noting. Regular old piperine has been studied extensively as well, and proven to be very effective.
Obviously a situation where a company bankrolls studies on their own ingredient has potential for publication bias and a host of other problems (i.e. a company with a vested financial interest is providing the only research). It’s not a deal-breaker…but it’s a good reason to scrutinize the data. And the funded studies themselves were a bit odd, in the fact that they weren’t uniform…
In other words, it’s odd that they used 5mgs in three of the studies except curcumin where they used 20mgs of Bioperine plus 2,000mgs of curcumin, and the resveratrol study where they used 10mgs plus 500mgs (the other two studies they mention — that I couldn’t find — supposedly used 5mgs). But their own resveratrol study didn’t actually measure absorption of the micronutrient, instead it measured mitochondrial oxidative capacity changes (huh?). The majority of Bioperine studies were performed in humans, except the Iron one, which was done in rabits (why?), and the curcumin one which was done in both rats and humans (again, why?).
If we wanted to be generous (and apply a bit of logic), we could assume that the mechanism of action (presumably inhibiting Cyp450, CYP3A4, P-glycoprotein, impairment of UDP-glucose dehydrogenase and glucuronidation, etc…) would hold constant across broad categories (i.e. all fat soluble vitamins). But generosity aside, the presumed effects of Bioperine across these general categories is hardly proven by a single study in a specific vitamin (or mineral or whatever). In other words, I were formulating a vitamin C supplement, I’d have serious reservations with making claims of increased bioavailability that relied on a single study performed on vitamin b6.
And no studies have been done that compare regular piperine against Bioperine, which strikes me as dubious. If you’re telling me that your ingredient is better than the generic version, you’d better have the data to back your claim. Put another way, tell me why I wouldn’t formulate with regular (inexpensive) black pepper, instead?
Again, if we wanted to be generous, we might say that anabolic steroids (which are affected by the Cyp450 superfamily) may show increased absorption with Bioperine (or regular black pepper, or grapefruit juice, or anything that inhibits the right enzymes). But I’d want to actually see those studies done before I’d put a ton of stock in the idea. Although steroids are metabolized by Cyp450 , “anabolic steroids” is a very broad category, and depending on how specific ones are metabolized, we might see huge variations in the effect of a Cyp450 inhibitor/steroid combination. It may produce noticeably enhanced effects in one steroid, but not another.
And when formulators start throwing Bioperine into anything and everything, we’re probably looking at someone who doesn’t understand what enzymes it’s been proven to influence, and the metabolism of the active ingredients they’re using. It hasn’t been proven to enhance absorption of phenols or phytonutrients like resveratrol…and in curcumin, it needed a 20mg dose (four times what most formulas include).
Again: there’s zero evidence that it has any effect on protein or amino acids. There’s zero evidence that it’s going to boost the effects of creatine, BCAAs, caffeine, whey, Beta-alanine, or most of the really popular ingredients on the sports nutrition market…even with the most generous interpretation of its mechanism of action. It’s never been studied and peer-reviewed in conjunction with those ingredients.
Maybe the patent-holder has tons of in-house studies and unpublished data that I’m not privy to…but right now, using the published, peer-reviewed studies available, I feel confidant saying that Bioperine is being inappropriately used in a lot of products. Naturally there are companies who use the ingredient and have conducted their own in-house research that found it to be useful (with ingredients not specifically studied in published research). But I’m betting they are few and far between, and that 99% of the formulators including this ingredient don’t know what it actually does.
Bioperine isn’t a bad ingredient, and there is some good evidence that it works to boost bioavailability of certain specific vitamins and minerals. It likely works for others, that haven’t been tested and proven, per se. It’s thermogenic in itself, so it makes sense to use in a fat-burner. But it doesn’t work to boost absorption of everything under the sun, and a lot more research is needed to support some its inclusion in such a wide spectrum of dietary supplements.
Go ahead, check my references:
- Bhardwaj RK, Glaeser H, Becquemont L, Klotz U, Gupta SK, Fromm MF (August 2002). “Piperine, a major constituent of black pepper, inhibits human P-glycoprotein and CYP3A4”. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 302 (2): 645–50. doi:10.1124/jpet.102.034728. PMID 12130727.
- Srinivasan K (2007). “Black pepper and its pungent principle-piperine: a review of diverse physiological effects”. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 47 (8): 735–48. doi:10.1080/10408390601062054. PMID 17987447.
- Atal CK, Dubey RK, Singh J (January 1985). “Biochemical basis of enhanced drug bioavailability by piperine: evidence that piperine is a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism”. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 232 (1): 258–62. PMID 3917507.
- Reen RK, Jamwal DS, Taneja SC, Koul JL, Dubey RK, Wiebel FJ, Singh J (July 1993). “Impairment of UDP-glucose dehydrogenase and glucuronidation activities in liver and small intestine of rat and guinea pig in vitro by piperine”. Biochemical Pharmacology. 46 (2): 229–38. doi:10.1016/0006–2952(93)90408-O. PMID 8347144.