Peptides are small biological molecules that are contained in all living organisms and play several roles within them. As a result of the benefits of these roles, peptides are found in numerous health, cosmetic, and skin products, producing anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, or muscle building effects in the human body when administered.

Anti-aging properties and other skin health benefits can be found in collagen peptides, while the muscle-building properties can be found in creatine peptide supplements. Creatine peptides, through their effect on the muscles, also help to boost athletic performance. Also, naturally occurring peptides with anti-microbial properties include protregin-1(PG-1), defensins, etc.

Given the many health benefits of peptides, several dietary supplements and drugs contain peptides that are either derived naturally or manufactured. 

Like proteins, peptides are found within every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. However, they are made up of fewer amino acids compared to proteins. Here, let’s quickly examine everything you should know about peptides from how they work to the health benefits they possess.

What are peptides?

Peptides are naturally occurring short strings of amino acids, comprising about 2-50 amino acids linked by peptide bonds. The order and conformation of each biopolymer’s amino acids determine its chemical, biological, and pharmaceutical properties. Combinations of multiple peptide subunits form proteins, and they form one of the basic components of cells that spur and influence biological activities. Based on the number of amino acids in each subunit, peptides are subdivided into oligopeptides (dipeptides, tripeptides, etc.) and polypeptides. Due to their size and configuration, peptides can easily penetrate the skin and intestines’ physiological barriers and are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

What are peptides used for?

Natural and synthetic peptides in prescription drugs, food, supplements, and other healthcare products produce several effects within the body. They are used to delay the aging process, build muscle mass, enhance athletic performance, and hasten the wound healing process.

Bioactive peptides are taking the limelight, and scientists have developed an interest in them because of their benefits to the human body. Based on research, bioactive peptides can be used to kill microbes, inhibit blood clot formation, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and get rid of free radicals (acting as an antioxidant).

What do peptides do to your body?

The functions of peptides within the body are solely dependent on the sequence and types of amino acids within each polymer’s shape. These biologically essential molecules form the structural and fundamental components of cells, tissues, antibiotics, toxins, enzymes, growth factors and hormones. They form the structural framework of cells, make up enzymes that speed up metabolic reactions in the body, form transporters in cell membranes, and serve as precursors to proteins, etc. Therefore, peptides also act as hormones and make up the major component of some of the body’s biological messenger. Hormones are constituted of either steroids or peptides. Peptide hormones are secreted from endocrine glands and are responsible for regulating growth, cardiac function, appetite, response to stress, reproductive functions, etc. They include glucagon, growth hormones, insulin, ghrelin, and several others.

How does peptide therapy work?

Peptides form an essential component of all biological activities, and to maintain homeostasis, appropriate activity levels and concentration of these molecules need to be maintained. Although the human body produces peptides, the amount produced varies by individuals and gradually declines with age.

Peptide therapy is a treatment procedure used to stimulate cell functions specific to a peptide. It is achieved by delivering amino acids to particular cells or areas to stimulate hormones’ production and functions, and regulate and rejuvenate biological pathways, etc. This therapy’s goal isn’t to replace peptides but to take advantage of the communication and signaling system of cells and hormones. For instance, the anti-obesity drug (AOD) 9604, when administered, can enhance bone health, burn fat, and inhibit fat production by stimulating the pituitary gland.

Benefits of peptides in pharmaceuticals

Although proteins’ therapeutic use has long overshadowed peptide therapeutics, there has been growing popularity and interest in the latter. Pharmaceutical researchers have acknowledged the importance of peptide therapeutics and put into cognizance the multiple advantages of peptides. These polymers are better choices compared to synthetic drugs due to their efficacy, safety, and potency.

How do peptides enhance pharmaceuticals?

Peptides, peptide therapy, and therapeutic peptides are rapidly transforming the pharmaceutical industry. Over time, new peptides have been discovered and developed into peptide drugs to treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. Also, the therapeutic application of peptides for the treatment of other conditions is on the rise. Bioactive peptides have been highly beneficial and have been critically developed to provide health solutions. Defensins developed to kill microbes, glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) to treat diabetes, ghrelin, treat obese patients, collagen to treat osteoporosis, improve skin health, etc.

Peptides have greatly influenced pharmaceuticals and positively. These naturally occurring polymers are considered better than synthetic drugs in safety, efficacy, selectivity, and specificity. In addition, there were also fewer accumulations, immunogenicity, smaller sizes, and improved solubility.

Peptides are gaining ground and taking pharmaceuticals to a higher and better level, where health is accurately optimized and continually improved. These new-age peptide drugs are considered to be more superior compared to proteins and antibodies.

Through peptides, peptide products, and therapeutic peptides, pharmaceutical companies can provide safe and rapidly acting drugs to treat severe terminal diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

As a result of the increasing importance and demand for peptides, several newly developed peptide drugs are currently in clinical trials and at different phases.

How is research advancing the development of peptide products?

In recent years, peptides have spurred a heightened interest in the food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries. Therapeutic peptides and peptide products have risen to become potentially outstanding drug candidates in the pharmaceutical industry. Although peptide products presented with some challenges concerning half-life, bioavailability, safety and peptide synthesis, most of these challenges have been addressed through the traditional therapeutic peptide design.

Over the past years, through research, the medical and biotechnical application of therapeutic peptides has gained ground and covered a wide range. Research into peptide supplements, drugs, and peptide therapeutics has caused these products to take a dimensional change commercially. For example, in 2011, Abbott Laboratories achieved global sales exceeding US$2.3billion on the sales of a peptide-based medicine, Lupron™, for the treatment of prostate cancer.

The value of peptide products and the global peptide drug market generally has spiked massively over the past few years and is expected to attain and surpass US $60 billion by 2026. Through research, the increasing understanding of therapeutic peptides, peptide supplements, and peptide therapy has allowed researchers and manufacturers to produce advanced peptide-drug conjugates to meet the therapeutic and pharmaceutical needs of the clinical setting. Several companies have dived into specialized manufacturing of peptide products, while others specialize in developing these peptide-based products. Pharmaceutical companies now manufacture peptides due to the easy manufacturing process and the rapidly growing global peptide drug market.

The peptide drug market is advancing, and more therapeutic peptides and peptide products have become commercialized. With the ever-evolving technology and in-depth research, new peptides are being discovered regularly and developed in peptide drugs and products.

What are the health benefits of peptides?

Peptides are essential for almost every function and biological activity in the body, and they form the basis for cellular activities. Peptides provide a plethora of benefits, and through peptide-containing health and cosmetic products, these benefits can be amplified. These benefits apply to every organ and system in the body. Collagen peptides boost skin beauty (elasticity and hydration) and health and treat inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Collagen also helps to facilitate and hasten the wound healing process. Bioactive peptides offer anti-tumor, anti-microbial, antioxidants, antihypertensive, antiallergic, and immunomodulatory benefits to the body. Creatine peptides help to build muscle mass, as well as improve strength and athletic performance. Peptides can be used to treat various conditions and improve the overall health of an individual.

Side effects of peptides

Like every other prescription drug or medication, peptides and peptide supplements have risks and side effects. Peptide supplements and other peptide containing substances are not regulated as strictly as prescription drugs are by the US Food & Drug Administration. Therefore, necessary inquiries and research must be made before ingesting any peptide supplements or peptide containing products. Some of the side effects include skin sensitivity, itching, rashes, dry mouth, joint pain, and fertility problems. When administered to healthy individuals, peptides and peptide supplements are less likely to induce side effects or adverse reactions. However, individuals with underlying conditions would need to seek medical advice before ingesting any of these.

What are the most common side effects of peptides?

The most common side effects of peptides accompany some of its best benefits to the body. For example, Growth hormone secretagogues (GHS) peptides stimulate the release of human growth hormone, boost muscle mass growth, burn fat, and cause some of the most common side effects. They cause fluid retention, elevated blood sugar levels due to reduced insulin sensitivity, and increased appetite. Since most peptides are injected, applied topically to the skin, and inserted trans-dermally, they cause skin irritations, rashes, and itching. Copper- derived peptides are capable of inducing headaches and triggering migraines in some users.

What are the most severe side effects of peptides?

Although peptides rarely result in side effects, they can result in some severe side effects when administered wrongly. Casein peptides administered to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., can spur severe allergic reactions in lactose-intolerant individuals. Also, they can interfere with blood pressure levels during and after surgery. Orally and intravenously administered copper peptides can result in severe gastrointestinal issues as well as organ-system toxicity. Collagen peptides, which spur collagen production for skin and bone problems, can lower immune defense, trigger allergic reactions, and increase oxidative stress. Contained in collagen peptides is hydrolyzed collagen, which makes absorption and distribution faster.

How common is it for people to have peptide side effects?

Given their similarity to naturally synthesized peptides and their efficacy, safety, and short half-life, peptides rarely give rise to side effects. However, side effects can arise after prolonged use, co-administration of peptides with some prescription drugs, or administration of peptide supplements to individuals with underlying conditions.

Safety in prescribing peptides with other drugs

Although peptides are generally safe, they can pose serious health risks to users. Therapeutic peptides, peptide therapy, and peptide supplements can worsen underlying health conditions, interact with prescription drugs, and cause severe adverse reactions. Every prescription made comes with ethical, legal, and clinical responsibilities. The doctor’s job is to ensure that the therapeutic peptides or supplements prescribed are safe, prescribed within therapeutic standards, and compatible with co-administered drugs or underlying health conditions such as cancer.

How common are drug interactions with peptides?

Peptide supplements are usually naturally occurring or at least similar to the naturally occurring peptides. For this reason, they are considered safe and would rarely give rise to drug-drug interactions when co-administered with other drugs.

Which prescriptions are not safe to combine with peptide therapy?

Prescription drugs are considered unsafe to combine with peptide therapy based on the peptide that is to be administered or prescribed. These combinations are considered unsafe due to adverse reactions arising from drug interactions. Drugs that target the same peptide receptors as peptide drugs are considered dangerous for co-administration. For example, casein peptides co-administered with high blood pressure drugs such as enalapril or amlodipine, can cause a drastic fall in blood pressure levels.

Prescription drugs, such as indomethacin and naltrexone, which affect the oral bioavailability of peptide drugs such as Bremelanotide, are considered unsafe for combinations. Also, the use of anabolic steroids alongside some specific peptides can be detrimental to the recipient’s health.

How can you tell if peptides are causing a drug interaction?

Like every other drug-drug interaction, peptide-drug interactions occur at pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic levels. That is a peptide, and drug interaction can occur at the receptor sites, during absorption, or distribution. Drug-peptide interaction can be identified by manifesting symptoms of adverse effects, such as water intoxication, increased blood sugar levels, and severe pain, or by reducing or exaggerating the intended drug or peptide effect. These interactions can arise due to the wrong dosage, administration of medications through the wrong route, or wrong drug choice.

Considering how important the role peptides play in living organisms is, understanding what it is and how it is composed is very important. Not only do peptides interact with drugs, but there are also several instances where they cause drug interactions. Like every other product, peptides come with some benefits as much as they have their side effects. Some of the benefits include facilitating skincare and improving response to certain drugs. In-depth research and maximum care have to be exercised when administering peptide supplements. To be sure you are on the safe side, you should speak to a doctor immediately if any side effect is detected from the use of peptides or peptide supplements.


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