Iron and Physical Activity: Bioavailability Enhancers, Properties of Black Pepper (Bioperine®) and Potential Applications

Nutrients. 2020 Jun 24;12(6):1886. doi: 10.3390/nu12061886.


Black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) has been employed in medicine (epilepsy, headaches, and diabetes), where its effects are mainly attributed to a nitrogen alkaloid called piperidine (1-(1-[1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl]-1-oxo-2,4 pentenyl) piperidine). Piperine co-administered with vitamins and minerals has improved its absorption. Therefore, this study aimed to describe the impact of the joint administration of iron (Fe) plus black pepper in physically active healthy individuals. Fe is a micronutrient that aids athletic performance by influencing the physiological functions involved in endurance sports by improving the transport, storage, and utilization of oxygen. Consequently, athletes have risk factors for Fe depletion, Fe deficiency, and eventually, anemia, mainly from mechanical hemolysis, gastrointestinal disturbances, and loss of Fe through excessive sweating. Declines in Fe stores have been reported to negatively alter physical capacities such as aerobic capacity, strength, and skeletal muscle recovery in elite athletes. Thus, there is a need to maintain Fe storage, even if Fe intake meets the recommended daily allowance (RDA), and Fe supplementation may be justified in physically active individuals, in states of Fe deficiency, with or without anemia. Females, in particular, should monitor their Fe hematological profile. The recommended oral Fe supplements are ferrous or ferric salts, sulfate, fumarate, and gluconate. These preparations constitute the first line of treatment; however, the high doses administered have gastrointestinal side effects that reduce tolerance and adherence to treatment. Thus, a strategy to counteract these adverse effects is to improve the bioavailability of Fe. Therefore, piperine may benefit the absorption of Fe through its bioavailability enhancement properties. Three research studies of Fe associated with black pepper have reported improvements in parameters related to the metabolism of Fe, without adverse effects. Although more research is needed, this could represent an advance in oral Fe supplementation for physically active individuals.

Keywords: bioavailability; black pepper; iron; physical activity; piperine; supplementation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids* / adverse effects
  • Alkaloids* / chemistry
  • Alkaloids* / metabolism
  • Alkaloids* / pharmacokinetics
  • Animals
  • Benzodioxoles* / adverse effects
  • Benzodioxoles* / chemistry
  • Benzodioxoles* / metabolism
  • Benzodioxoles* / pharmacokinetics
  • Biological Availability
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Iron* / chemistry
  • Iron* / metabolism
  • Iron* / pharmacokinetics
  • Phytochemicals* / adverse effects
  • Phytochemicals* / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals* / metabolism
  • Phytochemicals* / pharmacokinetics
  • Piper nigrum*
  • Piperidines* / adverse effects
  • Piperidines* / chemistry
  • Piperidines* / metabolism
  • Piperidines* / pharmacokinetics
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides* / adverse effects
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides* / chemistry
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides* / metabolism
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides* / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats


  • Alkaloids
  • Benzodioxoles
  • Phytochemicals
  • Piperidines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Iron
  • piperine