21/06/2022 / Health and Fitness

10 Symptoms of Protein deficiency You Shouldn't Ignore

Protein is as important as air and water to the body. In this blog we understand what is protein deficiency, symptoms and causes of it.

10 Symptoms of Protein deficiency You Shouldn-t Ignore
Keerthana A PKeerthana A P
Keerthana A P
Food Technologist, Engineer & Research Associate
Medically Cited
Fact Checked

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Proteins are the building blocks of the body that takes care of the muscles and many connective tissues. Hence, proteins are an important factor for keeping you in your best health and shape. If you want to know whether you are lagging behind your protein intake, you should look for the symptoms of protein deficiency in your body. By recognizing your protein deficiency, you can easily counter the possible harm that the severe protein deficiency can put your body through. In this article, you will know the signs and symptoms of protein deficiency in your body.

Why is Protein Important?

Protein is as important as air and water to the body! This is because most of the body’s constituents are made of proteins. From the hormones, muscles, tissues, immune system, and even blood. Many people restrict the role of the proteins to the muscles but it has other roles than this. These proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids which play the important functional rules. Protein has almost twenty amino acids, of which nine are essential. Nonessential amino acids need not be taken into the diet as the body can synthesise themselves. Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine are essential amino acids that have to be provided from the diet.

What are the Causes of Protein Deficiency?

There are various economic, social, psychological, and physiological causes of protein deficiency. Here are some of the causes of protein deficiency,

What are the Causes of Protein Deficiency
  • Celiac disease

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Parasites and other infections

  • Damage to your pancreas

  • Defects in your intestines

  • Surgery, including weight loss surgery or procedures that remove part of your intestines

  • Lack of proper care during childhood

  • Eating disorders

  • Economic conditions leading to malnutrition and hunger

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The requirement of protein varies from person to person but the standard set by RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight. Having this adequate amount of protein can prove really beneficial for your body and can save you from protein deficiency.

What are the Symptoms of Protein Deficiency?

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of protein deficiency can help you in making your body resilient against severe protein deficiency. Here are some of the symptoms of protein deficiency,

What are the Symptoms of Protein Deficiency

1. Protein cravings

Nature in itself is the biggest wake-up call. When your body is protein deficient, you crave every short-term protein-rich food provided for you. So, if next time you find yourself craving cheese or lentil soup, eat them up without feeling guilty.

2. Sugar cravings

Proteins digest a bit later than the sugars. If you eat a meal with fewer proteins, you digest your meal much faster making you crave more sugars. In these cravings, you would eat more than what is required by your body which increases your weight. 

3. Hunger

Even if your meal lacks protein, you will remain hungry throughout the day. That's why you need protein to lose weight! Consuming protein helps you in taming your hunger and thus reducing your calorie intake. 

4. Weakness and fatigue

If you are looking for the signs and symptoms of protein deficiency in your body, this is the first one you should look for. This makes you feel low in energy throughout the day. Even if you are having enough calories, less protein can make it tough for going through the day. 

5. Loss of muscle mass

If you don't get enough protein, bodies will stop rebuilding itself. So, you would start losing muscle loss once you don't supply your body with enough protein. Proteins are needed very much for metabolism and tissue repairs. With protein, deficiency comes muscle degradation and various metabolic disorders. 

6. Skin, hair, and nail problems

Skin problems are bound to arise when the skin itself is made of proteins. Not only the skin but hairs and nails are also equally damaged by protein deficiency. For healthy hair, skin and nails, you need a protein rich diet

7. Impaired immune function or slow-healing injuries

Proteins are like soldiers in the body which repair your tissues and heal injuries. Without these soldiers available due to the protein deficiency, you would have a disadvantage while healing wounds. Not only this but your immune system is also composed of antibodies that are made of proteins. So, with protein deficiency, your body will lose the ability to fight against the invading pathogens. This can make you fall ill very often! 

8. Risk of bone fractures

This symptom should be noted among the older generations. The risk of bone fractures was higher in the people who were suffering from protein deficiency as protein forms an important part of the structure of bones. 

9. Fatty liver

In the wake of protein deficiency disease kwashiorkor, fats start depositing in the liver which makes can turn into non-alcoholic fatty liver disease if left untreated. 

10. Edema (swelling)

Oedema is one of the most prominent symptoms of protein deficiency. You can notice this swelling throughout the body due to the fluid buildup in your legs, feet, and abdomen, which is caused by profoundly low levels of albumin (a protein found in the blood). This swelling is one of the signs of protein deficiency disease kwashiorkor.  But this happens only in severe protein deficiency and malnourishment. 

Tips for Getting Enough Protein

To get enough protein, add the foods which are rich in protein to your diet. So, the treatment of protein deficiency is to follow an efficient protein-rich diet. Some of the following are the foods that are highly rich in protein,

Tips for Getting Enough Protein
  • Lean meats- Pork, kangaroo, chicken, and lamb

  • Poultry and Products – duck, turkey, emu, goose, bush birds, chicken, and poultry products like eggs.

  • Fish and Seafood- fish, prawns, crab, lobster, oysters, and clams.

  • Dairy Products – milk, yoghourt, and cheese

  • Nuts- almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.

  • Legumes and Nuts – lentils, chickpeas, split beans, and tofu.

Take-Home Points

  • Proteins are the building blocks of the body and that’s why they should be included in your diet.

  • Amino acids are the units of the proteins in which nine amino acids are considered to be essential as they need to be supplemented through diet.

  • Some of the signs and symptoms of the protein deficiency are Protein cravings, Sugar cravings, Hunger, Weakness and fatigue, loss of muscle mass, skin, hair, and nail problems, Impaired immune function or slow-healing injuries, Risk of bone fractures, Fatty liver, and Edema (swelling).


FAQ on signs and symptoms of protein deficiency

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