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Simply put, a peptide is just a chain of amino acids. Like words in a dictionary, the human body can produce millions of proteins by combining 20-22 amino acids. Thus, the body can use amino acids to build proteins, hormones, messenger molecules, and more.
Thousands of peptides naturally occur in the human body. These peptides play an important role in the regulation of various body functions. For example, some of the vital hormones are also peptides like the growth hormone, insulin, leptin, various pancreatic hormones, and more.
Science has developed greater knowledge of using peptides in regulating various body functions in recent years. This has helped science either create or identify hormone-like substances.
What is peptide therapy, and how does this differ from hormone replacement therapy?
As humans age, there is a decline in the level of different hormones. This decline is associated with aging; however, it also accelerates aging. Therefore, one way to slow down aging is by supplying the body with hormones that are in decline.
Take an example of sex hormones. They decline with aging in men and women. In men, they continue to decline gradually after the age of 30. While in women, they decline more abruptly after menopause.
This decline in sex hormone causes many health issues like fatigue, osteoporosis, weight gain, mood fluctuations, and even cognitive decline.
One of the strategies to slow down this decline in various body functions is to replace sex hormones with synthetically created hormones. However, hormone replacement therapy is not free of health risks as it may cause different adverse effects and may even increase the risk of heart disease, cause weight gain, and even increase the risk of certain cancers.
So, what could be the safer option?
It seems that science has found the answer. Instead of hormones, use peptides. There are many peptides, and some may imitate hormones. Others increase their production more naturally. There is an increasing interest in peptides as they appear to be relatively safer.
Since peptides are safer than hormones, their widespread use is becoming more common. Moreover, unlike some hormones, the use of peptides is less regulated.
How does peptide therapy work in the body?
Peptides are very complex molecules, and they may act in very different ways. However, some may work almost like natural hormones, as they are structurally similar.
Other peptides may act as pro-hormones, which means that they might be converted to hormones by various tissues in the body. Pro-hormones have many benefits like they are relatively inactive substances, and they only become active in specific body tissues. Thus, their action is more focused, and they have a much better safety profile.
Some peptides may provide the body with the raw material to start producing more hormones. Thus, it is a relatively natural way of boosting hormone levels.
Further, science has found that many hormones work by increasing the level of specific peptides in the body. It means that providing a body with these peptides may be a more efficient way of fighting aging and chronic disorders.
Another way these peptides may act is by imitating the function of different hormones. For example, humans might create peptides that are very similar to natural hormones but with few differences. Just a few changes in the structure may make these peptides more stable, and they might work for much longer. For example, this is how humans can create long-acting insulin.
Who can benefit from peptide therapy, and what are its effects?
Peptide therapy, unlike hormone replacement therapy, has a much broader scope. It is not just about increasing the level of sex hormones. There is a vast number of peptides. Science has already identified more than 100 kinds of peptides.
Peptides are not only for older adults or for preventing aging. These peptides can help boost lean mass, aid weight loss, enhance immunity, promote healing, help post-workout recovery, increase hair growth, increase cognition, improve mood, etc.
Most of the peptides work gently as, unlike drugs, they do not directly influence body functions. Instead, in most cases, they promote the production of other peptides, hormones, and cellular functions and thus act more naturally. It may explain why most peptides are relatively safe.
That is why peptide therapy is now emerging as a safer alternative to hormone replacement therapy.
Additionally, the use of peptides is less regulated due to their better safety profile. Just take an example of growth hormone, a potent hormone to reverse aging. However, using this hormone has many health risks. Thus, a novel way to increase its levels is through the use of peptides.
Popular peptide therapy: what they are and how they help
Although there are tens of peptides available, we look at a couple of commonly used peptides and their benefits.
Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. Its injections have been available for a long. It is often described as a wonder drug that can boost cognition, improve mood, reduce anxiety, help overcome stress, enhance social skills, and more1.
However, oxytocin injections provide supra-physiological doses of the hormone and may cause side effects. Moreover, injecting a hormone every day is not an option. Thus, researchers have created a nasal oxytocin spray. Hence, one can experience all the benefits of oxytocin more safely and naturally.
As already mentioned in this article, one of the most potent hormones to fight aging is the growth hormone. This hormone can improve mood, and lean mass, reduce wrinkles and strengthen the body. It is the most potent hormone discovered by humans.
However, injecting it causes some unacceptable side effects. Thus, researchers have found a novel way of increasing its levels. They have synthesized peptides that can improve their production in the body. Increasing the body’s natural production through peptides almost nullifies the risk of hormone overdose and thus the adverse effects.
One such peptide that can boost growth hormone levels is Sermorelin. As a result, it can promote weight loss, increase energy levels, help build muscles, slow down aging, and more2.
To conclude, hormone therapy is an excellent way to slow down aging. However, replacing natural hormones with synthetic ones causes side effects. Thus, the more realistic option is to use peptides that promote the production of various hormones by the body. Therefore, it is a more natural and safer way to fight aging and counter metabolic disorders.
- Graustella AJ, MacLeod C. A critical review of the influence of oxytocin nasal spray on social cognition in humans: Evidence and future directions. Hormones and Behavior. 2012;61(3):410-418. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.01.002
- Walker RF. Sermorelin: A better approach to management of adult-onset growth hormone insufficiency? Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(4):307-308.