Proteins are called building blocks of the human body as they are present literally everywhere within us and comprise of multiple smaller units known as amino acids. These amino acids bind with each other in long chains and in varying sequences to carry out specific functions in the body. For example, the immunoglobulin G protein binds itself to virus and bacteria that attack us, thereby acting as antibodies and protecting us. Similarly there are enzyme, harmone, messenger, transport/storage, and structural proteins in the body that run our system like a well-oiled machine day in and day out.
One of the three macronutrients, with the other two being carbohydrates and fats, proteins are essential for building muscle mass. That’s why people who do regular exercise and body builders take proteins after the work out.
Despite being naturally available, when the intake is low, protein deficiency leads to several problems. This is prevalent in South Asia and Central Africa, where around 30% of children do not get enough protein only through their diet. Muscle wasting and kwashiorkor are caused in people living in developing countries, where imbalanced diet due to famine or poor economic conditions is common. Symptoms of protein deficiency include edema, fatty liver, skin, hair and nail issues such as flaky or reddish skin, hair thinning/loss, and brittle nails. Loss of muscle mass, greater risk of bone fractures and severity of infections, stunted growth in children, excess appetite and calorie intake are all signs of protein deficiency.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
An adult requires about 0.4 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight. So for a person weighing 75 kilograms, 66 grams of protein are required. For athletes, this quantity increases to 0.5-0.6 grams per day per pound of body weight. Newborns upto one year require 9.1 to 11 grams of protein per day. This increases to 13 grams for toddlers and 19 grams for children between four and eight years old. Teenagers need to consume between 34 to 52 grams every day and men above 18 years require 56 grams. Girl children from 9 to 13 years require 34 grams 14 years and above require 46 grams per day. Expectant or lactating mothers require 71 grams per day of protein intake.
Excess of Protein
Too much of protein intake also affects the body adversely just like less intake. Indigestion and other intestinal disorders, dehydration, exhaustion, nausea, irritability, headache, diarrhea are all side effects of excess protein. Long term consumption of exceeding amounts of protein can cause cardiovascular, blood vessel issues, liver and kidney injury, seizures, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Sources of Protein
There are many foodstuffs that are rich in protein. Seafood, white meat poultry, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, beans, soy, pork, lean beef, etc., are natural sources of proteins. Artificial sources include protein bars, cereal bar, soy meal drinks, whey protein drinks and so on. When consuming artificial protein, ensure that they are low in sugar and saturated fat. Children, do eat your egg every day and grab that glass of milk while running out.