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With an aging population, there has been a definite uptick in interest in anti-aging peptides.
While they cannot perform miracles, therapeutic peptides may address some of the factors contributing to premature cellular aging. Breakthroughs in peptide research could lead to more products on the market that help people feel and look better.
While some peptides for anti-aging have been researched for decades, others are newer with limited evidence to support their use. It’s important to remember that high-quality evidence is still needed to support using peptides for anti-aging and increasing longevity.
Here’s our guide to peptides for anti-aging, skincare concerns, and longevity.
The top three anti-aging peptides are:
Peptides are a class of compounds made of short chains of amino acids. Longer chains of amino acids are classified as proteins.
Peptides have huge therapeutic potential and may transform various areas of medicine. Many natural peptides play key roles in various biochemical processes, like cellular function and metabolism, hormone balance, tissue generation, and more.
There is evidence to support the use of therapeutic peptides for a variety of purposes, including muscle growth, weight and fat loss, anti-aging and longevity, healing and injury repair, immune support, management of specific disease states, and more.
Not to mention, with the many possible configurations of amino acids into unique peptides, there’s only room for growth in this area of research as scientists discover promising new compounds.
Still, research into most peptides at this point is still early, utilizing test tubes or animal studies, or small human trials. It’s important to keep this in mind when independently researching peptides for anti-aging.
It’s thought that the number of people in the U.S. over the age of 60 will double over the next 40 years . With this massive growth in the older population, interest in anti-aging peptides is at an all-time high.
There are several different ways that peptides may offer benefits for longevity, anti-aging, and skin care.
Because peptides are made of the structural units used to build new tissues (amino acids), they play key roles in strengthening and regenerating skin, muscle, and connective tissue cells. Peptides may also signal the body to produce more connective proteins, like collagen and elastin, which give skin and other connective tissues their firmness and flexibility.
As part of the aging process, collagen structures in the skin weaken, and the body becomes less efficient at creating new collagen cells to replace these structures. This can cause wrinkles and sagging. Other factors like sun exposure, smoking, and poor diet can also contribute to premature skin aging.
Peptides may also promote longevity in several ways. Some peptides, like epithalon, have been shown to lengthen telomeres. These are the protective caps found at the end of chromosomes, and they get shorter as we age. Telomere lengthening has been linked to an increased lifespan.
Other peptides may work in more indirect ways by addressing factors related to premature aging, like low muscle mass, excess body fat, or oxidative damage.
However, there are no universal peptide effects. Each peptide will have its own unique benefits and functions. While some may be helpful for longevity or skin aging, others may not have any effect in these areas.
Although there is promising research on anti-aging peptides, it’s important for independent researchers to temper their expectations when it comes to the potential benefits.
There are different levels of research quality. At the bottom, the lowest quality research data is evidence from test-tube or animal studies. While this research can help direct further studies, the findings from these studies are not always applicable to humans.
Most of the current research on anti-aging peptides falls within this category.
Next, there are human studies. There are some small human studies on many anti-aging peptides, which can be more useful for determining the effectiveness of peptides than test tube or animal studies.
However, the highest quality studies—the ones from which we can truly draw evidence about potential benefits—are double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trials. This is a specific methodological design that can be difficult and expensive, but which provides the highest-quality, most trustworthy evidence. These studies are known as the “gold standard” of research.
Unfortunately, studies of this caliber are few and far between in the world of anti-aging peptides—at least, for now. As interest grows, it will be more feasible to do randomized controlled trials on anti-aging peptides.
The best peptides for anti-aging and longevity include GHK-Cu, epithalon, CJC-1295 with DAC, Argireline, and ipamorelin.
These peptides all work in different ways to potentially provide anti-aging benefits.
Here’s a bit more about each of these peptides, including a review of how they work and the research available to support their use:
GHK-Cu is a copper-binding peptide. It was discovered in the 1970s, when a research team led by Dr. Loren Pickart noticed that aged liver cells could regenerate when exposed to younger blood plasma. Eventually, the researchers isolated GHK-Cu and realized that it was the cause of this beneficial effect .
Through this research, they also discovered that levels of GHK-Cu declined naturally with age—which is why the old liver cells did not regenerate until reintroduced to the younger red blood cells.
Since its discovery in the 1970s, GHK-Cu has been heavily researched. Because of its unique anti-aging benefit, GHK-Cu is also an ingredient in some skincare products.
As a powerful antioxidant, GHK-Cu has many potential benefits. Here are some of its most notable anti-aging effects, according to research:
GHK-Cu is one of the most well-researched peptides, but we are continuing to learn more about its effects as new research data is made available.
Epithalon is a research chemical and a synthetic version of a pineal gland extract called epithalamin .
Epithalon may have powerful anti-aging properties, and according to early research, it lengthens telomeres .
Telomeres are DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome. Gradually over the lifespan of a cell, telomeres become shorter. Once they become so short that the cell cannot divide, the cell dies.
With the potential to lengthen telomeres, epithalon has true anti-aging properties. In a 15-year human study, researchers found that elderly people who received epithalamin for two to three years had a decreased mortality rate when compared to a control group. The intervention group also had lower rates of osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, osteoarthritis, and hypertension .
Epithalon may also help to regulate inflammation and has been researched as a potential treatment for ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis—two inflammatory conditions.
In Russia, it is used to treat a number of hormone-related issues, like menopause symptoms, hormone-dependent tumors, and anovulatory infertility.
In animal studies, it’s also been observed that epithalon regulates melatonin levels. Therefore, it may be helpful as a sleep aid. Because melatonin also has antioxidant properties, it could improve overall brain health, as well [16, 17, 18, 19].
Epithalon may also help to prevent DNA damage, which could be key to explaining its anti-aging and longevity properties .
Still, it’s important to note that most research into epithalon and epithalamin has been conducted in Russia or the former Soviet Union, and has not been replicated in studies from other countries.
CJC-1295 DAC is a synthetic peptide and an analog of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH). It was first developed to help treat lipodystrophy (a fat storage disorder) in people with HIV/AIDS.
However, it has since also been found to help treat growth hormone deficiency. It may also help improve sleep quality and provide some anti-aging benefits.
The “DAC” in CJC-1295 DAC stands for “Drug Affinity Complex.” Through bioconjugation, it helps CJC-1295 bind with proteins in the blood—giving it a much longer half-life than CJC-1295 without DAC. Without DAC, CJC-1295 has a half-life of roughly 30 minutes, but with DAC its half-life is 6-10 days .
As an analog of growth hormone-releasing hormone, CJC-1295 may help promote better sleep. In one study, researchers found that people who received GHRH had greater rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep than participants in the control group .
In addition, CJC-1295 may help promote muscle growth and fat loss—both of which could help prevent premature aging. Muscle loss is a hallmark of aging, and it’s associated with limitations in strength and mobility. Likewise, excess fat is biologically active and is linked to a number of health conditions [23, 24].
Still, it’s important to remember that research on CJC-1295 is early and ongoing.
Argireline, or acetyl hexapeptide-3, is an ingredient in many topical anti-aging and cosmetic products that are available without a doctor’s prescription. There is now growing interest in the peptide’s internal benefits, as well.
Argireline helps to limit neurotransmitter function to decrease movement in the facial muscles, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in the face. It works similarly to Botox, or botulinum toxin, leading to its earning the nickname of “Botox in a Bottle.”
There are also several human studies to support the use of Argireline. Three separate studies have shown the benefits of topical Argireline for decreasing facial wrinkles [25, 26, 27].
Additionally, animal research indicates that topical Argireline may also help to increase collagen production .
Finally, the peptide may also help promote skin hydration, which can help the skin look younger and plumper .
Ipamorelin is a growth hormone secretagogue and a ghrelin mimetic. It thus signals the release of growth hormone—which offers numerous potential anti-aging benefits.
One added benefit of ipamorelin, though, is that it does not simultaneously increase the body’s stress levels. Many similar peptides increase growth hormone and stress levels in the body simultaneously.
Several of ipamorelin’s benefits could have massive implications for longevity and anti-aging. These include:
Still, it’s important to remember that some of these effects have only been noted in studies on ghrelin and growth hormone, not necessarily ipamorelin itself.
Before conducting independent studies on any of the peptides on our list, it’s important to be well-versed in potential side effects and safety concerns.
Generally, most side effects arise as a result of not the peptide itself, but the route of administration: injection. These side effects can include bruising, bleeding, swelling, or pain at the injection site.
However, here are some of the potential side effects of each peptide listed above:
The side effects listed above likely do not show the full picture for each peptide and are only some of the side effects of which we’re currently aware.
Additionally, it’s important for peptide research to be conducted safely. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should be ruled out of peptide research. Likewise, researchers should carefully evaluate subjects with an existing medical condition, or those taking any prescription medications.
One major anti-aging concern is wrinkled and sagging skin. These changes are unavoidable as we age, but the process can be hastened by factors like following a poor diet, smoking, and sun damage.
Fortunately, peptide therapy may help to reverse the damage caused by these contributors to wrinkles and sagging skin, lending the skin a more youthful appearance.
Wrinkles and sagging skin form when the collagen and elastin networks that keep the skin firm start to degrade. At a certain age, the rate of cell degradation outpaces the body’s ability to create new, healthy cells to replace them. Thus, wrinkles form and sagging begins.
This can also happen prematurely due to other factors like smoking, a poor diet, stress, or poor sleep.
Both of these peptides are regularly used topically to help promote collagen production, increase skin firmness, and restore a youthful appearance to the skin.
Peptides can have some powerful benefits, but they cannot reverse the aging process. Aging is inevitable.
However, there are several lifestyle and environmental factors that contribute to premature aging of the skin and the cells—including diet, smoking, and sun damage. Peptides can help mitigate the skin damage caused by these factors.
In the case of the skin, collagen breakdown can contribute to wrinkles and sagging.
However, peptides may help the body produce more collagen to help plump and lift the skin, reducing the appearance of both wrinkles and sagging.
With regards to longevity, certain peptides—like epithalon—may help lengthen telomeres. This is associated with an increased lifespan.
Peptides may also offer other benefits to help promote longevity, like supporting muscle growth, weight loss, and better sleep.
Still, more research is needed for us to fully understand the benefits of peptides for anti-aging and longevity. In most cases, peptide research is still in the early phases, and the information we have is from preclinical studies.
Interested in peptides for anti-aging?
A few of the best ones for future research include:
These peptides may work in a variety of ways to help address cellular aging, skin aging, and factors that may be contributing to premature aging.
Still, while some anti-aging peptides have decades of research to support their use, there are others for which we only have preliminary information.
Researchers interested in skincare, longevity, and life extension are advised to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and findings in the field.
This is sponsored content. M&F is not endorsing the websites or products listed in this article.