Health News Digest


June 8, 2020

A Look At Peptides

By Michael D. Shaw

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a peptide is “[A]ny organic substance of which the molecules are structurally like those of proteins, but smaller. The class of peptides includes many hormones, antibiotics, and other compounds that participate in the metabolic functions of living organisms.” By way of example, insulin is a peptide hormone, and is well-known to diabetics as one of the few substances that can rapidly lower blood glucose levels.

Readers with some knowledge of biochemistry know that peptides are composed of amino acids, and that proteins are composed of peptides. So, how does one distinguish between a protein and a peptide? While there is no fixed rule, a polypeptide composed of more than 50 amino acids is generally classified as a protein.

As noted, peptides participate in all sorts of metabolic functions. Not surprisingly, there has long been interest in supplementing the body with exogenous sources of these compounds—especially if they are believed to correct some sort of health problem. The earliest and most impressive example, of course, is the use of insulin to control diabetes. And with more than 7,000 naturally-occurring peptides extant, there has always been interest in exploiting further therapeutic benefits.

You may also see the term “bioactive peptides” (BP), and as noted in this review article, “BP are considered the new generation of biologically active regulators; they can prevent oxidation and microbial degradation in foods and also improve the treatment of various diseases and disorders, thus increasing the quality of life. The growing interest in BP has incentivized the scientific community and the food industry to exploring the development of new food additives and functional products based on these peptides.”

Here are a few claimed benefits of bioactive peptide products…

1.     Can ease hypertension. In this case, the BP can inhibit angiotensin I, angiotensin I converting enzyme (ACE) and Ang II type 1 receptor (AT1) in the cardiovascular system. (cf. the pharmaceutical drugs Lisinopril, Enalapril, and Benazepril.) This study documents the results with Valine-Proline-Proline (VPP) and Isoleucine-Proline-Proline (IPP).

2.     While collagen is technically a protein, many sources refer to collagen peptides, when used as supplements or topically-applied products. Most claims are involved with improving the appearance and elasticity of the skin. In this study, joint pain in athletes was significantly improved. This article takes an in-depth look at the benefits of hydrolyzed collagen as a nutraceutical on skin properties.

3.     Creatine has long been advocated in the fitness and bodybuilding communities. It has been shown to increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance. The reference cited, and others, attest to its safety. Perhaps since it works to build muscle mass, it has been unfairly compared to anabolic steroids, which do have significant side effects.

4.     Advocates of Melanotan (not to be confused with melatonin) tout several benefits, but the predominant one is that it aids in skin tanning. It is illegal in many countries, although it can be obtained online from sites warning buyers that it is only being sold for academic and research purposes.

dozens of bioactive peptides. As with other health topics, though, you are likely to encounter an avalanche of conflicting statements as you search the Web for details. You are certainly advised to use peptides (other than the most tried and true) under the supervision of a licensed medical professional. There are clinics that offer such services, including this organization.

Even so, the often-promoted peptide BCP-157 gets a less-than-glowing review from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

In the rapidly expanding field of bioactive peptides, the best advice is to proceed with caution, do lots of research, and caveat emptor.