A range of nutrients is essential for the body in order to lead a healthy life. The nutrients include macronutrients namely carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and micronutrients which are vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are sometimes called proximate principles. They are oxidized in the body to provide energy.
Importance of protein
Protein is vital for the sustenance of life. It forms an integral component of muscles, tissues, and vital body fluids such as blood. Enzymes and hormones, which help in metabolism, are also made up of protein. As antibodies, this nutrient helps defend the body against infections. Protein forms the building block and helps in repair and rejuvenation. A healthy amount of protein is needed for foetal development during pregnancy, milk production during lactation, growth in infants and children, and body maintenance in adults.
Health issues due to protein deficiency
A balanced diet can supply enough protein to the body. Dietary proteins are broken down into amino acids and are absorbed by the body. These amino acids are used to synthesize the protein required by the body for its various functions. The amino acids which are not used for protein synthesis are broken down to provide energy. If a diet does not contain adequate carbohydrates and fat, dietary protein is synthesized to provide energy, which is a wasteful way of using protein.
Protein deficiency is seen as Marasmus and Kwashiorkor in children. Marasmus involves increased wastage of muscles and extreme emaciation. In Kwashiorkor, there is swelling all over the body and the fatty liver also affects the heart and kidneys. A decrease in protein compromises the immune response resulting in a higher chance of infections. There is impaired cellular proliferation, particularly in the intestinal mucosa leading to a decrease in absorption of other main nutrients too.
The quality of dietary protein depends on the pattern of essential amino acids it supplies. The best quality protein is the one that provides essential amino acids very close to the pattern of the tissue protein.
Understanding the interdependency of macronutrients and micronutrients can help in leading a holistic life. For this, diets should be planned to keep nutritional principles in mind.