Protein has several functions in your body. It is one of the macronutrients, meaning that the body must have it for sustained growth and development.
Structurally, protein is a block that contains many amino acids joined together. It is so essential to the body that the Greeks named it proteos literally meaning ‘first place’. Your body needs proteins not only for structural maintenance of your body but also a range of important roles including the provision of energy. There are tens of thousands of proteins in the human body but they are only made up of 20 amino acids, essential and non-essential. This article will help you learn how proteins can function to help keep your body at the top level.
Maintenance of Growth and Development
You grow steadily from the point of birth until when you are above 25 years. Your growth and development need to be maintained always lest you go into atrophy. For such constant maintenance of tissues, protein is needed. But did you know that proteins in your body are under constant shift? Well, your body at one point may breakdown more protein to build and repair tissues while at other times it may use the same amount.
More proteins are used when you are sick, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Furthermore, when you underwent surgery, incurred an injury, or are growing old, you will need to increase your protein intake.
Involved in Biochemical Reactions
Numerous intracellular and extracellular biochemical reactions take place in your body. All these reactions are facilitated by enzymes, which are proteins. Enzymes are structurally made in such a way that they can easily team up with substrates in the cell to catalyze metabolic reactions. Likewise, enzymes such as lactase and sucrase play a role in the process of digestion. They work outside the cells to help break down and digest sugar.
In general, your body largely depends on enzymes to perform the following functions; constant production of energy, formation of blood clots, digestion, and contraction of muscles. According to published research, lack of enzymes or improper function can ultimately lead to disease.
Maintenance of pH in the Body
A pH scale is a tool used to measure the balance between acidic and basic states. The scale usually ranges between 0 and 14. The highest acidic level is 0 while the highest basic level is 14. 7 is neutral. Protein helps in balancing and maintaining the concentration of acidic and basic states of the blood. It achieves this through a buffer system that keeps the pH ranges at normal levels. If the pH values change from normal, it can be fatal.
Proteins help to keep you alive by regulating pH in various ways. Hemoglobin found in red blood cells is a good example. It regulates and maintains the pH of the blood by binding to acids. The pH of human blood is 7.4 while that of stomach acid is 2.
Is the Body’s Messenger
Proteins also function as hormones or in other words, messengers. Hormones help in transmitting information from one cell to the other, same to tissues and organs. Endocrine glands secrete hormones in small amounts which are then carried in the blood to targeted tissues and glands. Here they potentiate actions by binding to protein receptors that are situated on the surface of cells.
Knowing the categories of hormones is of vital importance. They are steroids, which are synthesized from fat cholesterol. Testosterone, sex hormones, and estrogen are steroids. Protein and peptides are hormones structurally composed of long chains of amino acids. Amines are the last group of hormones made from tryptophan or tyrosine. Amines are responsible for sleep and metabolism.
Several hormones of your body are mainly made up of polypeptides and proteins. Some of them include glucagon (break down of glucose), insulin (helps in cellular uptake of glucose), human growth hormone (growth of tissues), antidiuretic hormone (renal absorption of water), and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (helps in the release of cortisol).
Involved in Fluid Balance
Excess accumulation of fluid in the body can be deadly, so equally is inadequate fluids. Proteins help keep the fluids in the body maintained by regulating some processes. According to published studies, two proteins found in the blood, which are albumin and globulin works by retaining water thus helps in keeping body fluids maintained in a balanced state. Inadequate dietary intake of proteins can lower the levels of globulin and albumin. When this happens, fluid is pumped into the intracellular spaces since it can no longer be kept in the intravascular compartments. Over time, cells and tissues swell with continued fluid buildup, a state called edema. When edema occurs in the stomach region, kwashiorkor is developed. This is a severe form of protein malnutrition.
One way your body fights infections and wards off pathogens is with the aid of antibodies or immunoglobulins. These are also proteins. They help keep your body free of bacteria and viruses which can be harmful. For example, when a bacteria invades the body, antibodies are produced by your body which seeks out these bacteria and eliminates them. You would be long dead if your body wouldn’t produce antibodies to fight viruses and bacteria. Once a certain bacteria or virus attacks the body, and antibodies are produced against it, the cells keep this in “memory.” This makes it easy to fight strongly in case of recurrence, hence the improved immunity.
Provision of Energy
Your body gets energy from the breakdown of carbs and fats. Proteins also provide energy. In fact, one gram of protein contains four calories which are equivalent to that of carbs. Usually, your body only relies on fats and carbs for energy. But in case of starvation above 20 hours, proteins (muscles) are broken down into amino acids to provide energy.
Protein is an essential nutrient in your body. It is made up of numerous amino acids joined together into a chain. There are several functions of protein in your body. They provide energy, act as messengers, and boost your immunity among others.