Proteins are the most vital part that makes up every cell, tissue, and organ inside the human body. Human protein is necessary and present for almost every bodily function—physical growth, cell development, thinking processes, immune system defenses, metabolism of fats and carbohydrates for energy that the body needs, and more. Proteins also act as enzymes, hormones, antibodies, cytokines, and peptides which carry information to the cells. In short, proteins do almost all the work.
Our body is naturally rich in human protein. We also get certain amounts of protein from food that we eat everyday. But in some cases, particularly in third world countries where a lot of children don’t get to eat three square meals in a day, protein deficiency is prevalent. It is an apparent warning sign of malnutrition and can lead to a children’s disease called kwashiorkor. In reality, many impoverished and starving children suffer from malnutrition and die. But protein deficiency is not only present among children in impoverished nations. Adults may get it too, particularly those who have a very low protein diet to none. Vegetarians and crash dieters fall prey to it if they are not too conscious of their eating habits. If you feel like your diet lacks essential amounts of protein, here are telltale signs of protein deficiency that you must be aware of, followed by corresponding treatment.
- Look for signs of brittle nails and frequent splitting or falling hair. One important function of human protein is being responsible for tissue and cell growth, including overall health of hair and nails. Once the main source of protein is used up or when protein is not a huge part of a person’s diet, the body then uses its store of protein in tissues to continue performing its functions. It deprives the hair and nails of protein that they also need, making them look dull and unhealthy.
- Do not ignore extreme bouts of fatigue and frequent spells of lethargy. If you notice that you’ve been getting tired and weak easily and more often, it might mean that your diet is lacking in protein. Requirements of a healthy balanced diet also include protein rich food.
- Watch out for flabby and weak muscles. Protein also builds and maintains muscle tissue. The absence of enough proteins makes muscles appear more flabby, weak, and less defined.
- Look for signs of edema. Edema, also known as hydropsy, is the unusual buildup of fluid under the skin or cavities in the body. The lack of proteins causes cell walls to deteriorate and plasma to leak out of cells. Externally, this is seen as puffy or inflamed parts of the body where fluid has accumulated under the skin.
- Note down irregular weight loss. Weight loss may also be caused by edema.
- Observe signs of slow wound healing. Collagen is an important protein needed to keep skin healthy and strong. The absence of proteins like collagen would only slow down the skin’s resiliency and healing process.
- Has your child abruptly stopped growing? Stunted growth in children is also a telltale sign.
In mild cases, one only has to be mindful of his diet. A change of diet is in order. Include protein-rich foods like meat, soy products, legumes, and animal proteins. For more complicated cases, it’s better to consult a physician and a nutritionist because they know your medical history and they can offer the best medicines and alternatives to fight protein deficiency.
Human protein deficiency is a lot easier to counter unlike other illnesses like cardiovascular and genetic diseases which may require protein therapy. The compilation of a protein database for evolutionary studies, medical advancement, reference etc., has made it possible to study protein interactions like ligand protein interactions, antibody protein interactions, peptide synthesis, yeast protein expressions, protein localization, etc. It has also contributed to manipulation of proteins like recombinant DNA technology.