The first article in this Lab-to-Life series on protein started with the fundamentals, why protein is the cornerstone of functional and structural health and how much we need. Check out: Protein, the often overlooked key to total health. This post looks at the signs of deficiency while our next post, #3 reviews what distinguish quality protein.
Lab-to-life Blog is for our like minded community who believe that great taste and health should live together in harmony. As a team, we are always looking into research that clarifies the links between food and health. This series is a dedicated space for sharing quality information to help contribute to our "pleasures of the plate" while minimising the costs to health associated with less informed decisions. Questions and comments welcome!
Based on research and interviews with Chief Science Officer Dr. Jean-Francois Lesgards. Jean-Francois holds a Post Doctorate in Chemistry/Biochemistry and has 20 years of fundamental and clinical research in nutrition/ food, health and inflammatory diseases. By Sheila Partrat.
Lab-to-life post # 2: Protein: the foundation of our health and six signs of deficiency
S.P.: “ J.F, in the first post we looked at our daily protein requirements, and how we often fall short. How can we tell that we are not getting enough protein?
JF: Firstly as a refresher, we can store fats and carbohydrates that are used for energy in the form of fats (triglycerides) or glycogen (for glucose), but we can’t store amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. That’s why we need to replenish our protein supply daily. Protein deficiency can manifest in many ways, which are not always easy to identify. Here are a few signs to be aware of:
You are getting sick more often than you should: Most of us know that good nutrition; in addition to sleep and good hygiene is key in maintaining immunity. Quality protein however is not always high on the list, which it should be. High quality protein (see BP 3# for how to distinguish quality protein), rich in essential amino acids (EAAs), particularly in sulfur amino acids (cysteine, methionine) will boost our immune system as well as our anti-inflammatory defences.
Slow wound healing: Protein aids the body in repairing damaged tissues. When we don’t get enough protein, we have a difficult time forming collagen, necessary in the healing process.
Poor quality of sleep. There are many factors that negatively impact the quality of sleep; one of the possible causes is unstable blood sugar levels and a decrease in serotonin production. Blood sugar swings during the day carry over through the night. Eating foods with quality protein before bed can help stabilise the blood sugar as well as contribute to the tryptophan and serotonin production that encourages quality sleep.
Frequent injuries. A diet that is low in protein can raise the risk for muscle loss, slow bone healing, and increase bone weakness, fractures and even osteoporosis. Protein is key for calcium absorption and helps with bone and muscle metabolism. It’s even more of an issue when we age. A diet high in amino acids can help treat muscle loss due to ageing (sarcopenia).
Poor concentration or brain fog. Protein is needed to support many aspects of healthy neurological and hormonal functioning. Poor concentration can be a sign that there is a deficiency in the neurotransmitters you needed to focus including dopamine, adrenalin, noradrenalin, and serotonin. Neurotransmitters are synthesised using amino acids. Certain Amino acids also increased magnesium uptake in cells contributing to the relief of stress.
Blood sugar fluctuation: Adequate supply of protein helps to regulate blood sugar sugar and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Studies show that whey protein can be used in medical/nutritional therapy to regulate blood sugar (hyperglycaemia). It can also lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure and the risk of hypertension and consolidate arterial health.
S.P.: Where do does our body get the amino acids necessary if we don’t get them through food?
J.F. It's quite simple. If the foods we eat provide too few amino acids, especially essential amino acids, (see BP#3 on quality protein), our body breaks down protein-rich tissues – our muscles, for example, in order to access them. Therefore, the initial effect of low protein intake can result in muscle wasting accompanied by increasing weakness.
Thanks Jean- Francois. It's clear. Adequate protein is essential to health. The quality of protein is also important. Next article will be on the difference between animal and vegetable sources and what distinguishes quality protein. Sheila P.
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