In this work we analyze the effect of the inclusion of an empirical dispersion term to standard DFT (DFT-D) in the prediction of the conformational energy of the alanine dipeptide (Ala2) and in assessing the relative stabilities of short polyala-nine peptides in helical conformations, i.e., α and 310 helices, from Ala4 to Ala16. The Ala2 conformational energies obtained with the dispersion-corrected GGA functional B97-D are compared to previously published high level MP2 data. Meanwhile, the B97-D performance on larger polyalanine peptides is compared to MP2, B3LYP and RHF calculations obtained at a lower level of theory. Our results show that electron correlation affects the conformational energies of short peptides with a weight that increases with the peptide length. Indeed, while the contribution of vdW forces is significant for larger peptides, in the case of Ala2 it is negligible when compared to solvent effects. Even for short peptides, the inclusion of an empirical dispersion term greatly improves accuracy of DFT methods, providing results that correlate very well with the MP2 reference at no additional computational cost.