Introduction to Beta Peptides

When a large number of amino acids are strung together the molecule is called a protein. When a small number of amino acids is strung together the molecule is called a peptide. Think of the ocean versus a pond for the size comparison.

The proteins that are found in the food we consume are made up of alpha amino acids. As mentioned previously, the body breaks down these proteins and uses the pieces to rebuild new molecules that the body needs. Beta peptides or proteins are made up of amino acids that contain one extra carbon atom. This extra carbon atom keeps the body from recognizing the protein to break it down.

Below is a model of an alpha and beta amino acid. The models here can be thought of as more advanced tinker toys. The balls represent atoms, the white sticks represent single bonds between atoms, and the blue sticks represent double bonds between atoms. Carbon atoms are represented by black balls, oxygen atoms by red balls, and hydrogen atoms by white balls.

The extra carbon that makes the beta amino acid (right) different from the alpha amino acid is green.

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