Why do humans require protein?
Proteins are essential for numerous bodily processes, and their significance extends far beyond the construction of muscular tissue (no offence intended to body builders; we like you too!).
Our bodies would be unable to build and repair tissues, make new cells, or produce critical hormones and enzymes if we did not consume enough protein.
Here’s some more info on Proteins’ functions within the body:
Proteins are responsible for transporting substances throughout the body. Haemoglobin, for example, is a protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps transport carbon dioxide to the lungs to be exhaled.
Building and mending tissues:
Proteins are the building blocks of the body's tissues and organs. They are required for growth and development because they are employed to generate new cells and repair damaged tissues.
Catalysing chemical reactions:
Enzymes are proteins that help to catalyse chemical reactions in the body. They aid in the breakdown of nutrients from food, the conversion of energy, and the formation of new molecules.
Many hormones are proteins, including insulin and growth hormone. Hormones are signalling molecules that the endocrine system produces to control a variety of bodily functions including reproduction and growth.
Immune System Function: Many proteins are involved in the immune system, which aids in the identification and elimination of foreign substances in the body.
Proteins are also important in providing structural support for cells and tissues. Collagen, for example, is a protein that gives connective tissues like tendons and ligaments strength and flexibility.
As we can see, proteins are the workhorses of the human body, participating in nearly every process that occurs within us. They are crucial for our health and well-being since they do everything from constructing and repairing tissues to catalysing chemical reactions.
What happens if we don’t get enough?
Protein shortage can cause muscular atrophy, poor growth and development, and a weaker immune system, among other things. Protein insufficiency can possibly result in death in severe circumstances.
So, how much protein do we really require?
The recommended dietary intake (RDI) for protein is the amount which generally healthy adults require on a day-to-day basis, and it differs for sex, age and life stage. The RDI for women aged 19-70 (not lactating or pregnant), for example, is 0.75g/kg of body weight, per day; and the RDI for men aged 19-70 is 0.84g/kg of body weight, per day.
You can read more about requirements for the general healthy population HERE.
1. Building and mending tissues:
Protein is essential for the growth, maintenance, and repair of tissues in the body. Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). (2017). Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved from https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze biochemical reactions in the body. Source: Kuchel, P. W., & Chapman, B. E. (2015). Biochemistry and molecular biology. In J. A. Brierley, A. J. Cowie, & S. F. Orchard (Eds.), Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases (9th edition, pp. 64-81). Elsevier Health Sciences.
Proteins such as insulin and growth hormone act as hormones in the body. Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). (2017). Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved from https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein
4. Immune system:
Proteins such as antibodies are important for the immune system. Source: National Institutes of Health. (2018). How does the immune system work? Retrieved from https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/how-immune-system-works
5. Providing structural support:
Proteins such as collagen provide structural support for tissues. Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). (2017). Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved from https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein
6. Nutrition Reference Values https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/nutrient-reference-values/introduction