Protein is a vital element of our diet, and its deficiency can lead to serious health issues. Protein deficiency is often referred to as less intake of required proteins in our diet to meet the body’s needs. When we consume a diet that has low proteins, it can affect our bodies in many ways. However, the chances of protein deficiency in the average person are low in developed countries due to access to a variety of food sources.
Protein enables our bodies to carry out everyday activities, as it provides the amino acids that our bodies require. Protein contains 20 amino acids, including nine essential amino acids, which our body can’t produce, and to get them, we have to include them in our diets. However, Non-essential amino acids can be produced by our bodies naturally.
Here we’ll take a look at several symptoms caused by a deficiency of protein intake in our diets.
1. Swelling (Edema)
Swelling is one of the most common symptoms of less protein intake in our diets. It can cause our abdomen, legs, feet, and hands to swallow and in some cases, can have a severe impact on our health. Swelling or Edema, which is characterized by swollen or puffy skin, is also a classic symbol of Kwashiorkor, a common disease in poor countries.
According to some scientists, a protein-deficient diet causes inadequacy of human serum albumin, the most profound protein in our plasma. Its main function is to maintain the pressure that controls the blood circulation in our body. Because of reduced albumin levels in our blood, fluid accumulates in tissues leading to swelling. It’s important to note that edema or swelling is a severe form of protein deficiency, and is rare to happen in developed countries.
2. Risk of Bone Fractures
Due to less intake of protein in our diet, the risk of bone fracture is also high. Protein deficiency causes osteoporotic, which can either be a result of altering muscle function or decreasing bone mass. The somatomedin system (IGF-1) is a common risk factor for hip fractures, and a low level of IGF-1 is directly involved in bone diseases in elderly patients. A proper diet that includes vitamin D and calcium can increase the circulation of IGF-1 levels, improving the condition of bone fractures.
Several studies have shown the effect of proper calcium, vitamin D, and proteins on bone mineral density or content.
3. Greater Appetite
It would not be wrong if we entitled protein as our body fuel. It seems obvious in such cases when we have just eaten our meal, but after a while, we still feel the need for some more. When our diet excludes required proteins, our body attempts to maintain the protein status by boosting our hunger, urging us to find something to eat.
However, protein deficit doesn’t pointlessly enhance our desire to feast, at least not for all of us. It simply enhances our urge for selective foods, which are generally full of high-protein. While this urge may help people fulfilling their food desires, the problem is that most of our meals don’t contain the required proteins.
4. Risks of higher infection
A protein deficit person is at higher risk of infectious disease as protein deficiency takes its toll on the immune system. It’s common for a protein deficit to contract infectious ailments, mainly due to impaired immune function, which enhances the risk of infections. A study has shown that less intake of protein causes influenza infection compared to a diet consisting of all required proteins.
For instance, one study on aged women showcased that following a proper diet for more than eight weeks significantly improves their immune response. Even fighting against the common cold becomes difficult due to too little protein.
5. Weakness and fatigue
If we experiment with ourselves by consuming little protein in our diet over one day, we are certainly not going to feel less energy or reduced strength, because we’re already receiving enough calories in that day. But, if we repeat that for the long term, their bodies might not be able to provide sufficient protein, contributing to fatigue and less energy.
Fatigue and weakness are the two important symptoms of protein deficiency as they start appearing in the early stages. Although younger do get affected by inadequate protein intake leading to these symptoms, it can cause serious implications for older adults.
6. Skin, hair, and nail problems
Nails, hairs, and skin cells are made up of mostly proteins like keratin, collagen, and elastin. When our body can’t produce these proteins, we often have ridges on the nails, thin hair, and dull skin. According to a study published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal, people with less intake of recommended protein have hair problems such as hair loss and several skin problems.
However, diet is not the only cause of such problems, and our other eating habits might as well. It’s to be noted that these symptoms are very unlikely to occur in a person living in a developed county unless he/she has a severe protein deficiency.
7. Fatty Liver
Fatty Liver is a condition caused due to the accumulation of fat in liver cells, and it’s a common symptom of Kwashiorkor. It usually occurs due to malnutrition and typically impacts infants in poor countries. If this condition is left untreated can cause cirrhosis with severe life-threatening consequences.
Protein-enriched food helps crease liver fat more effectively than a calorie-reduced, low-protein diet. A study has shown that the high-protein group diet decreased 40 percent of liver fat while the low-protein group remained unchanged in the liver.
8. Low blood pressure and low heart rate
When a person faces a protein deficiency, their heartbeat and blood pressure can plummet. This then impacts our body’s normal functioning since blood proteins aren’t getting to essential tissues. Due to the low intake of required amino acids, our body is unable to carry out its necessary task.
With a help of a tracker, we can notice our heart rate, and if it’s less than 60 beats per minute, we should make an appointment to see the doctor.