Many of you may recognize the word “protein” as an item listed on a nutritional facts label. Or you may know it as a component of a weight-loss diet or a muscle-building regimen. Most of you may realize that you must have some protein every day from plant and/or animal sources as part of a balanced diet.
However, the multitude of tasks that proteins actually perform inside your body that is not fully discussed and, therefore, not understood by many. The enormous variety of proteins and their contributions to your total health, well-being and your very ability to exist cannot and should not be underestimated. This blog sets the stage for a better understanding and appreciation of proteins and what they mean to your healthy living and longevity.
It is important to see and to understand that your body’s daily functions only happen because of proteins. There is not just a single “protein”. Rather there are many thousands of unique proteins within you. They perform life-sustaining tasks both inside and outside your body cells. Others give shape and form to your body. And still others protect your body.
Proteins are composed of 20+ amino acids chemically joined together. The number of amino acids and the order in which they join together give each protein a shape and chemical structure that makes it different from all others. Although proteins are made from the same 20+ amino acids, each and every protein consists of different numbers of these amino acids. The fact you can stand up and walk; that you can think of a solution to a problem; that you can read these words; and that your heart beats continuously are all due to proteins performing precise tasks over and over.
Your daily protein intake is a crucial factor to your healthy longevity. Whether plant-based or animal-based, you need to provide your body with about 1 gram of protein for every 2 pounds of body weight or 1 gm per kilogram. This means that a 150 lb. personal needs about 75 grams of protein daily. However, the protein daily intake can vary per individual according to factors that include your sex, age, and level of physical activity.
When you digest proteins in your food you release amino acids. These amino acids, upon absorption, are used to construct the proteins necessary for your body to carry out all of its life functions. Many of these proteins fall into the category called enzymes. As in a chain reaction, these enzymes enable all the biochemical processes within your cells to occur. These processes include the production of the following specialty proteins:
- — form vital portion of cell membranes to control what enters and leaves a cell; also part of membranes of cell components such as the nucleus and mitochondria.
- — framework of bone, cartilage, skin and muscle — the proteins are known as collagens; (see blog from Nov. 2017 )
- — special elastic-types that allows tissues and organs to stretch such as those proteins in arteries, veins, skin.
- — stretchable proteins in muscle that can shorten or lengthen
- — the lenses of the eyes
- — variety of antibodies or immunoglobulins that are essential in healthy immune system function.
- — special proteins called complement that attach to antigens such as invasive disease-causing bacteria. They mark the invasive agent for the antibodies to disease.
- — fibrin in blood enables clotting to occur. Other proteins are necessary to activate the formation of the fibrin.
- — certain hormones such as insulin which helps control blood glucose level.
- — help control blood pressure.
- — proteins that send signals to activate inflammation as in the case of an infection in order to protect the body.
- — some proteins help control your blood pH (acid-alkaline balance).
- — albumin in your blood carries the bulk of energy-rich triglycerides. throughout your circulatory system so all your body cells have a steady supply of fuel to perform their life functions.
- — hemoglobin is a specialized protein that carries oxygen in your blood.
- — other proteins assist in transport of vitamins and minerals from your digestive tract, through the intestinal walls (absorption) and into your bloodstream.
- — includes many unique enzymes that assist or trigger production of life-giving biochemicals. For example, the acetylcholine in your brain and nervous system (enables nerve impulses to travel throughout your entire body) and the pigment rhodopsin in the retina of your eyes (enables you to see) are constantly being used and must be replenished. The action of enzymes to resupply these biochemicals is necessary.
- — the growth of your hair and nails, the replacement of cartilage and bone tissue, new red and white blood cells are all processes that require specific enzymes to be present. Your body must make these enzymes.
- — a whole set of enzymatic proteins produced in the mouth, stomach, pancreas to break down food nutrients small enough to be absorbed and used by your body.
ENERGY CYCLE ENZYMES
- — the dozens of enzymatic proteins specifically tasked with the job of extracting and transferring the energy from the digested food you eat. The energy, upon removal from the food molecules, is transferred and stored in ATPs. The energy is now usable by all the cells within your body.
The significance of protein to your well-being goes beyond its merits for a fat-loss or a muscle-building program. And the essential need for protein in your daily nutrition should not be lost in the argument of plant vs. animal protein consumption. The simple fact is: You need dietary protein to build proteins that in turn help your body construct other proteins for healthy living and longevity.