It's what you're made of
Although, protein has a number of functions in the body, the one that most people think of, is that protein is the building material for our skin, bones, muscles and other tissues in the body. Whenever there is any damage to any of our tissues, either due to normal wear and tear, or to injury, protein is necessary to rebuild that tissue. Protein is also necessary to build new tissue, making it very important for children and pregnant women.
Enzymes, Hormones and Antibodies
In addition, protein is a basic component of enzymes, antibodies, and hormones. These are chemicals that play a major role in many processes in the body that, among other things, digest your food, fight disease and allow you to enjoy a healthy sex life.
Stop the bleeding
Protein is also necessary for the clotting of blood, which keeps you from bleeding to death when you cut yourself.
Fluid balance and pH balance
One of the lesser known protein functions is to regulate fluid balance and acid-base balance, which helps keep you from swelling up, drying up, and/or becoming toxic, any of which could be life-threatening.
Proteins also act as transporters in the body, carrying important nutrients. These nutrients can get on the protein “bus” and travel to all the places in the body where they are needed. For example, hemoglobin, a protein in the blood, carries the oxygen that you breathe from your lungs to your cells.
Energy as a last resort
Finally, protein functions in your body by providing energy. This is probably not the best use of protein, since it has so many uniquely important functions, as listed above, but without another source, your body can convert protein to energy.
What if you don’t get enough protein?
You have probably figured out by now that protein is necessary for good health. If there is not enough protein in your diet, it will have a negative effect on your health, from making you susceptible to infections to actually causing you to waste away as your body uses your muscles to supply its need for protein.
Severe protein deficiency is most often associated with starvation and malnutrition and is a major cause for concern in developing nations, especially among children.
In developed countries, severe protein deficiency is mostly associated with those in extreme poverty or those suffering with eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa. Severe protein deficiency can lead to death.
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