Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for the construction, maintenance and repair of all your body’s cells. Your body cannot survive without this nutrient. Failing to consume enough can have a number of negative side effects and ultimately leads to death.
Protein deficiency normally affects people in developing countries who cannot get enough of this nutrient as a result of famine. It can also affect people in developed countries who make poor dietary choices (usually as a result of fad diets or poverty). Vegetarians and vegans are also more susceptible to protein deficiency because they eat little or no meats and dairy products (two food groups that are rich sources of protein). In this article I will be discussing seven of the adverse effects of protein deficiency.
1) KWASHIORKOR:- Kwashiorkor is a type of protein deficiency that affects children. It has a number of symptoms which include an enlarged liver, a swollen abdomen, pedal oedema (swollen feet), skin depigmentation, skin inflammation, thinning hair and tooth loss. Kwashiorkor can also affect the immune system and inhibit the production of antibodies (proteins that are used by the immune system to identify and neutralise foreign objects). Finally, it can inhibit a child’s mental and physical development.
2) MARASMUS:- Marasmus is a type of protein deficiency that can lead to fatigue, muscle wasting, reduced body fat levels, reduced energy levels and weight loss. It also reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and makes sufferers more susceptible to infections.
3) IMPAIRED MENTAL HEALTH:- Long term protein deficiency can affect your mental health in a number of ways. It can lead to mental retardation (particularly in children) and also cause anxiety, crankiness, depression and moodiness.
4) OEDEMA:- Not getting enough protein can lead to oedema (fluid retention). This can cause swelling in a number of areas of the body such as the feet, hands and stomach. Apart from the swelling oedema can also cause aching in the limbs, discoloured skin, high blood pressure and stiff joints.
5) ORGAN FAILURE:- As I mentioned above, protein is needed for the construction, maintenance and repair of all your body’s cells. Failing to consume enough of this important nutrient means that your body will have nothing to maintain and repair your organ cells with. In the long term this will prevent your organs from functioning properly and cause them to fail.
6) WASTING AND SHRINKAGE OF MUSCLE TISSUES:- When you do not get enough protein in your diet your body starts to source it from elsewhere. One of the first sources your body turns to is the muscles. If your body does take protein from the muscles it causes them to shrink and can also lead to weakness.
7) WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEM:- Protein is essential for the production of antibodies which are a key part of the immune system. If you become deficient in protein your body will be unable to manufacture these antibodies. This makes you more susceptible to infection as your body will struggle to fight foreign objects.
Protein deficiency is a very serious condition. In the short term it will lead to the symptoms discussed in this article and in the long term it will lead to death. Fortunately, protein is available from a wide selection of foods including dairy products, meats, nuts, certain fruits and certain vegetables. To avoid protein deficiency you should ensure that a minimum of 15% of your daily calories come from protein.
Now I want to hear your thoughts. Do you eat enough protein? Have you ever suffered from protein deficiency? Let me know by leaving a comment.