Peptides for skin, anti-aging, brain function and more
Protein supplements have been on the market for decades, mainly for muscle building. Did you know that protein does much more than that? Proteins have specific functions in your body that depend on how they are shaped and what they are made of.
Forget protein—reach for peptides instead.
Pieces of proteins called peptides have a significant effect on how well your body works too. A lot of your body’s processes sit waiting to be turned on, and peptides are the signaling molecules that kick things into motion. All of your major hormones are peptide hormones.
Find out all about peptides and whether peptide supplements are right for you.
What are peptides? Proteins vs. peptides vs. amino acids.
Think of peptides as a piece of a protein. Proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids, linked together in various ways to perform different functions. When you have at least two amino acids linked together, you can call it a peptide.
You might think of amino acids and protein in the context of building muscle, but there’s so much more to it than that. Proteins do different things in your body depending on how they are configured, and peptides have their own functions as well depending on how their amino acids are linked together.
Peptides signal specific body and cell functions, and what they tell your body to do depends on how amino acids are bonded together. Over 20 of your hormones are peptide hormones. For example, ghrelin is a peptide hormone that stimulates your appetite, and luteinizing hormone tells your body to make testosterone. These are vastly different functions that have different configurations, and their function depends entirely on how the amino acids in the peptide are linked together.
What’s cool about supplementing peptides is that your body already knows what to do. The signaling peptides simply switch these functions “on.”
Can’t you just eat protein to get to the peptides?
You lose your ability to digest protein as you age. Common conditions like thyroid disease and an imbalanced microbiome may cause sluggish digestion as well. Your stomach produces less acid, your digestive enzyme production decreases, and you don’t absorb as much nutrition from your food as you should.
When you digest proteins, your body breaks them down into amino acids then re-assembles them into peptides and proteins that you can use. If you take peptides in their functional form (assuming it’s stable enough to do its signaling before it breaks down), your digestive system can bypass a few steps.
What do peptides do?
With protein supplements, you take a dose to meet your macronutrient targets, and you let your body take it from there.
Peptides are more targeted, and people take different peptides for different concerns. Here are some of the more common reasons people take peptides:
Peptides for skin.
Cosmetics formulators were among the first to use peptides for their function, most often in topical form. Peptides have exploded in popularity, and it seems that every skincare brand has at least a few anti-aging creams and serums that contain peptides.
Here’s what the science says:
- A topical keratin peptide improved hydration and elasticity after one use
- Peptides carnosine and N-acetylcarnosine showed antioxidant activity and reduced redness from sun exposure
- Palmitoyl tripeptide-3/5 was found to improve skin elasticity and firmness
- Researchers demonstrated that copper tripeptides may improve the appearance of skin, speed wound healing and skin cell repair, and may help regrow hair.
- Collagen peptides may improve the quality of your skin
There’s more research where that came from, along with people who swear by peptide products’ results. Peptides in cosmetic creams aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
Peptides for cognitive enhancement.
Just as people have been experimenting with nootropics, or cognitive-enhancing supplements, people have been experimenting with peptides to improve memory, concentration, and focus in their everyday lives. A growing body of research shows that this may be an effective way to increase your concentration, recall, and more.
Here are just a few studies on the effects of peptides on the brain:
- Researchers developed a peptide called NAP that may protect and restore the functions of the brain cells
- Peptides called MEP and Hup A have been shown to improve the cognitive abilities of mice that have brain lesions characteristic of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis
- Israeli researchers showed that TXM peptides may reduce the enzyme activity that damages brain cells after brain injury or general inflammation
- One study showed that consuming whey high in a peptide called GTWY improved beneficial effects on cognitive performance, learning and attention and may prevent age-related cognitive decline
There is lots of room for additional research, and the knowledge that the scientific community has to build upon is exciting. If you want to try peptides to see what they may do for you, talk to a doctor that has experience using them for this purpose.
Peptides for anti-aging.
Peptides are growing in popularity for the anti-aging community. For example, carnosine is prized for its ability to increase your resistance against oxidative stress, which is a big contributor for aging. Specific peptides are also used extensively for their ability to increase cellular energy, which helps the cell function properly and stay young. They have also been used to stimulate autophagy, which is the state where the cell takes a break from its usual function to clean out cellular waste and debris. Autophagy keeps cells young and strong.
Are there side effects of peptides?
Specific peptides have specific functions. Further, dose and timing matters. Certain peptides at certain doses can cause adverse effects and can even be carcinogenic (cancer-causing), so it is best to work with a qualified professional regarding peptide supplementation.