Peptides and Their Benefits
By Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG)
What are peptides?
If you’ve heard the term “peptides” and are wondering: “what are peptides?” this article is for you. Let’s start with proteins, of which there are a multitude of different types. Proteins are composed of long chains of 22 different amino acids. The structure of the protein will change depending upon the specific amino acids, and how many of each – but each protein chain can be hundreds or thousands of amino acids long. By contrast, peptides are simply very short chains of amino acids. In fact, di- or tri-peptides are only two or three amino acids in length.
What do peptides do?
As far as what they do, peptides generally do the same thing as whole proteins. Specifically, the body uses proteins – or the smaller peptide chains – to make all different types of protein structures in your body. This includes tissues (like skin, organs and protein found in bone), hormones (like testosterone, estrogen and insulin), enzymes (like proteases that digest protein and lipases that digest fat), and even proteins found in the composition of your blood.
The difference between peptides and proteins is that peptides are much more easily absorbed. Think about it; in order for proteins to be absorbed, they have to be digested (broken down) into much smaller peptides. However, peptides themselves are already small enough for absorption without the need for additional digestion. Consequently, it’s not unusual for people supplementing with peptides to experience quicker or better results – and often with smaller amounts than would have been required had they used whole proteins. A good example of this is peptides for skin – or more specifically, collagen peptides.
What are collagen peptides?
As with any peptide, collagen peptides are smaller chains of protein – in this case, collagen. Collagen and collagen peptides are both known for their benefits in promoting more youthful-looking skin. In short, ingesting them stimulates your bodies own production of collagen, leading to improvements in skin appearance. But there is a significant difference in the amount of collagen you need to consumer versus collagen peptide. This was seen in several studies.
In two different double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, 1 2 women received 10 grams of collagen daily for 8-12 weeks. The results were an increase in skin moisture content, and a tendency to have a decreased appearance of micro-relief furrows or small lines. While these are certainly positive results, consider the results of studies on Verisol ®, a branded and well-researched collagen peptide.
An 8-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on women3 found that 2.5g of Verisol daily resulted in a statistically significant (20%) reduction of eye wrinkle volume in comparison to the placebo group, and a statistically significantly (65%) higher content of procollagen. In a second 8-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on women4 , 2.5g of Verisol daily resulted in statistically significant improvement in skin elasticity in comparison to placebo, as well as improvements in skin moisture. In a third, 6-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study5 , 2.5g daily of Verisol resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the degree of cellulite and a reduced skin waviness on thighs.
Collagen peptide absorption
So why were the results so good with only 2.5g of Verisol® collagen peptide compared to 10g of whole collagen protein? The short answer is absorption. Research has shown that collagen peptides could be detected in different organs and connective tissues after oral administration of Verisol.6 In fact, almost 100% of the orally consumed collagen peptides were rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract as indicated by a pronounced increase of these peptides in blood plasma within first 12 hours; and these peptides were detectable in several organs and tissues, including the skin.7
In conclusion, collagen peptides are small protein chains that are better absorbed than whole proteins, and which often produce better results. This is particularly true of the collagen peptide Verisol®, supplementation of which has been shown to promote more youthful-looking skin and improvements in skin appearance with only 2.5 g daily, compared to 10 g daily for whole collagen protein.
-  Verification of improvement effects of collagen intake on skin conditions. Unpublished report. January 29, 2009. Souken Co. LTd. Tokyo.
-  Evaluation of the effects of an oral intake of hydrolyzed collagen on coetaneous properties versus placebo. April 27, 2009. Group Dermscan – PharmaScan. France.
-  Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-9.
-  Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55.
-  Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S, Proksch E. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1340-8.
-  Oesser S, Adam M, Babel W, Seifert J. Oral administration of (14)C labeled gelatin hydrolysate leads to an accumulation of radioactivity in cartilage of mice (C57/BL). J Nutr 1999;129:1891-5.
-  Watanabe-Kamiyama M, et al. Absorption and effectiveness of orally administered low molecular weight collagen hydrolysate in rats. J Agric Food Chem 27-1-2010;58:835-41.