Signs And Symptoms Of Protein Deficiency

Protein is known as the building block of life. It is a significant component that provides amino acids to help maintain a healthy body. However, some people do not have enough of this micronutrient and may experience a deficiency. If you believe that you might have a shortage of protein, take a look at these signs and find out how you can get more nutrients in your diet.

What Is Protein Deficiency?

Proteins contain plenty of those essential amino acids. In your body, you need about 20 different amino acids to create skin, hair, muscle, hormones, and other vital tissues. Protein deficiency is also known as hypoproteinemia, and it means that you are not getting enough protein to meet your body’s needs.

There are an estimated one billion people that do not get the right amount of protein in their diets. Many of these cases are found in South Asia or Central Africa. However, that doesn’t mean people in developed countries are not at risk. People with cancer, anorexia, or Crohn’s disease can suffer from a lack of protein.

Diet plays a significant role in protein production. If you eat a raw diet, you could be running yourself low on these healthy micronutrients. We can get the right amount of protein from the foods in our diets. For those that don’t eat enough protein-rich foods, you can experience the signs of a deficiency.

Without enough protein in your diet, your body composition will change over time. Protein deficiency can affect every part of your body. Many symptoms start to show up with a lack of protein, and some can even be life-threatening.


Edema is one of the main symptoms connected to a lack of protein. This sign often is characterized by puffy or swollen skin. The human blood contains an abundant amount of protein, and it is known as human serum albumin. With low amounts of albumin, the body will draw fluid into the blood’s circulation. One of the most critical functions of albumin is to maintain oncotic pressure as this is the force the draws fluid through the blood’s circulation. Albumin is responsible for preventing a large amount of fluid in other areas of the body, including the feet and legs. When you’re protein deficient, the levels of human serum albumin are reduced, and fluid accumulates in the tissues. As a result, you will experience swelling, especially in the extremities and the abdomen area. In fact, one of the most common characteristics of edema is a bloated stomach.

Brittle Hair and Nails

Protein is the building block of many parts of your body, including the skin, hair, and nails. If you are noticing that they look unhealthy, you might want to look at your protein intake. The most common sign starts with the appearance of your hair. With a protein deficiency, you might notice hair loss, faded hair color, or thinning hair. Brittle nails are also common in those experiencing low protein intake. In children, red patches, flaky skin, or depigmented skin are other telltale signs of a protein deficiency. If you are noticing these signs, you will want to see a medical professional right away. These symptoms do not appear unless you are experiencing a severe protein deficiency.

Broken Bones

When you think of your bones, you might believe that calcium is the essential vitamin to keep them strong. However, protein is also responsible for healthy and strong bones. When you don’t consume enough protein, you are increasing your risk of fractures.

In one study, postmenopausal women lowered their risk of hip fractures with a higher protein intake. Researchers found that 69 percent of the women reduced their risk, and animal-based proteins provided the best results. For another study, postmenopausal women with hip fractures were able to slow bone loss by 2 percent with 20 grams of protein supplements. As you can tell, protein is responsible for helping you maintain the density and strength of your bones. When you have a low protein intake, you can have a lower bone mineral density that can cause an increase in bone fractures.

Fatty Liver

Many people with protein deficiencies develop a fatty liver. In these cases, the fat accumulates in the liver cells. If you don’t seek medical help, you can develop fatty liver disease. Inflammation, liver scarring, liver failure are all conditions of this untreated disease. Those who consume a lot of alcohol and the obese are at risk for the disease. Scientists are still researching the causes of the condition. However, in some cases, the fat-transporting proteins are impaired, and it affects the liver.

Muscle Loss

our muscles need the largest amounts of protein. When your diet is in a short supply of protein, your body will take the nutrients from available sources. One of the first signs of low protein intake is the loss of muscle. In most cases, those high levels of protein are stored in your muscles. As a result of this, your muscles will begin to waste away over time. Muscle wasting can happen in cases of moderate protein insufficiency.

The elderly are very susceptible to this condition. In one study with older men and women, those who had the lowest amounts of protein saw the most considerable muscle loss. For those with some muscle degeneration, you can stop the process by adding more protein into your diet. By increasing your protein intake, you can fend off muscle loss.

Always Under the Weather

Protein deficiency can cause your immune system to slow down. If you have a cold that you cannot shake, it may be time to look at your protein levels. When your immune system slows down, you are at a higher risk of infections. A weakened immune system is another sign of low levels of protein. In an animal study, mice that received only 2 percent of protein had more severe symptoms of the flu compared to those mice with an 18 percent protein intake.

You don’t need a severe level of protein deficiency to experience any symptoms. A small study found that older women who ate a low-protein diet had reduced their immune system’s response. When flu and cold season returns, you want to make sure to have enough protein in your body to fight off any infections.

Poor Appetite

If you feel like binge-eating the wrong foods, you might have a low protein intake to blame. Another sign of inadequate protein in the body is a poor appetite. Like a compromised immune system, you don’t even have to be in severe deficiency to experience any symptoms. When you have low protein in the body, you will see an increase in your appetite. These increased cravings are your body’s way of trying to get you to eat some protein.

In some cases, you might be craving savory foods that are higher in protein. However, these savory foods are often the ones with the most calories. Low protein can also lead to obesity and weight gain. Many researchers call this theory the protein leverage hypothesis, but not everyone supports this assumption. In some ways, this is why protein can help you lose weight and reduce your calorie intake. With more protein, you are staying away from unhealthy snacks and meals. If you are experiencing hunger throughout the day, you might want to add some lean protein to your meals.

Slow Body Growth

Protein is vital for all age groups, especially children. When children don’t get enough protein in their diets, they can experience issues with body growth. Growing bodies need an ample supply of protein. If the child is malnourished, stunted growth is usually one of the first signs of a problem. In a 2013 survey, there were 161 million children who suffered from slow body growth. Studies have shown a strong correlation between slow growth and a low intake of protein. If your child is having issues with growth, you might want to check out their protein levels.

Daily Protein Requirements

Now that you know the symptoms, how much protein should you have per day? You should know that age, physical activity levels, body weight, and muscle mass are all factors in your protein intake. The most important factor is body weight, and most recommendations are based on protein grams per pound.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, men and women need to eat about .8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. This recommendation is the same for both young and older adults. However, some scientists believe that physically active or older adults need around 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, an adult weighing in at 165 pounds needs about 66 grams of protein per day.

For those athletes, it is an entirely different story. The American College of Sports Medicine has a recommendation of 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This higher recommendation takes into account the protein needed for muscle recovery and maintenance. The International Society of Sports Nutrition has an even higher recommendation of protein. They suggest at least 0.9 grams of protein per pound of weight.

As you can tell, athletes require more protein per day than other groups of people. If you are strength training or exercising, you may want to boost up those totals. You need to preserve muscle in your body as you cut out some calories. Ten percent of your daily calories should come from protein.

When you are trying to incorporate more protein into your diet, there are three basic kinds of protein. You need to get several protein sources into your body. Complete proteins are the most well-known types. These proteins are found in animal products like eggs, dairy, and meat. This type of protein contains all the essential amino acids that you need for a healthy body. However, you need the healthiest version of these particular proteins, including low-fat yogurt and lean meats. If you want to get the most nutritious type of protein, you need to stay away from fatty or processed meats.

Another group of protein is known as incomplete proteins, and they are mainly composed of plant protein sources. These proteins have at least one essential amino acid, but they do not have all the necessary amino acids. If you don’t eat animal products, you might find it harder to incorporate complete protein into your diet. You should choose beans, legumes, vegetables, and grains. If you still lack in protein, you might want to consider a protein supplement in your diet.

The last type of protein is called a complementary protein. These protein types are incomplete, and they can work together to provide your body with the essential amino acids. Complementary proteins can be found in beans, rice, peanut butter, and whole-grain bread.

Boost Up Your Protein

There are several things that you can do to boost your protein intake. You definitely want to cut out all processed foods. If you are shoving in sugars and carbs, you need to replace them with healthy and whole foods, including yogurt, fresh meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables. For vegetarians and vegans, you need to replace animal products with plant-based protein sources. You can find these sources in beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains. Protein powder supplements are another way to get more protein into your diet. Many of these supplements are made with eggs, rice, whey, peas, and soy. Finally, if all else fails, you need to check with your health professional. Protein levels can be affected by many factors, and you want to make sure you can absorb these vital nutrients.

Protein is essential for all functions of your body. You need it to build bones and maintain a healthy immune system. Protein can be found in many animal-based, plant-based, and supplemental sources. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it may be time to check out your protein intake levels.

For information on protein supplements, you can head over to Gaspari’s Facebook page for details.

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