Protein is an important ingredient of nutrition, as it assists general body functions and helps in building cells, muscles, skin, and hair. Though the cells in our body contain protein required to perform various daily functions, the cells cannot store it, which is why sufficient quantities of protein must be consumed in our daily diet. Dairy products, eggs, lean beef, and chicken are some foods that are rich in proteins.
Low protein intake occurs when you don’t consume enough protein-rich foods or if the proteins consumed are of low quality. If the proteins consumed lack the essential amino acids, the body cannot synthesize them. Although low protein intake can lead to poor health, in some rare cases, it may be beneficial.
Negative Effects Of Low Protein Intake
Inadequate quantity of protein in the diet can have a negative impact on the body including bone and hair health, immunity, and even cause chronic fatigue.
1. Bone Health
The quantity of protein in the daily diet has a direct impact on the body’s calcium levels. A diet that has low-protein content reduces the ability of the digestive tract to absorb calcium, resulting in increased excretion into your urine. When the body does not have sufficient amounts of calcium, the skeletal system supplies calcium from the bones as a backup strategy, as your cells must have a certain level of this nutrient for efficient functioning. Studies have shown that over time, people having an insufficient protein intake can suffer from decreased bone density and a high rate of reduced skeletal mass. In short, not consuming enough protein can make your bones weak.
2. Low Immunity
Protein is essential for the body to maintain the immunity level of the body. Protein forms a critical component of the immune system, making up white blood cells, antibodies, blood proteins and many immune molecules. These proteins collectively fight against harmful foreign bodies such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Most of these immune proteins are produced by the body whenever it is required to safeguard the health from external attacks and infections. Inadequate dietary protein can compromise the body’s capability to produce ample immune molecules to fend off these threats, making the body vulnerable to frequent infections and illness like cold and flu.
3. Hair Loss
Hair is mostly composed of a protein called keratin. When the protein intake is insufficient, the body tries to preserve the protein content in the body and reduce the supply of protein to various organs that require this nutrient, resulting in hair loss. Often, such instances of hair loss are frequently observed in people who follow extreme dieting patterns.
4. Reduced Energy
Proteins are vital for the body to produce energy to sustain the physical activity. The amino acids that comprise protein are crucial in transporting oxygen to various parts of the body through the blood stream. Low levels of protein reduce the quantity of oxygen available to the body. This manifests as a feeling of tiredness or fatigue. Studies have shown that low protein diets produce divergent effects on energy balance.1
Consumption of insufficient amounts of protein can cause bloating, as protein binds with the cells to help retain water within the cells. Bloating that occurs because of low levels of dietary protein is usually noticed in the extremities of the body and in the stomach area, as the cells release their water content. This trend occurs frequently among malnourished people who don’t follow a balanced diet.
6. Reduced Body Mass
Proteins are absolutely crucial for the development of muscles. Without sufficient quantities of protein in your diet, your muscles can contract losing its mass. People who are into body building, weight lifting, and athletics where muscles matter consume a high protein diet in order to enhance their performance. People whose diet does not contain the minimum required amounts of protein often experience muscle weakness and a loss of their body’s lean muscle mass.
Positive Effects Of Low Protein Intake
Rarely, a low-protein intake can have some beneficial effects on the body. It can reduce the strain on the kidneys and the liver and can even reduce the risk of cancer.
1. Delays The Need For Dialysis
A low protein intake can be beneficial for people who suffer from chronic kidney disease. In such persons, the kidney function is reduced as it is unable to process the nitrogen and creatinine. A healthy kidney normally performs this activity without any problem. By reducing the protein intake as recommended by a physician, people with kidney problems can prevent the waste products from accumulating in their blood to dangerous levels, which can help them delay the need for dialysis.
2. Reduces Strain On Liver
Reduced intake of protein can also benefit a severely diseased liver. The liver plays a vital role in protein digestion. By reducing the level of protein in your diet, you can lower the burden on a poorly functioning liver.
3. Lowers Risk Of Cancer
A study published in 2006 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, low protein intake and a low-calorie diet was closely associated with low plasma growth factors and hormones that are linked to an increased risk of cancer. As higher levels of these hormones are linked to an increased risk of cancer, researchers concluded that a low-protein diet may have protective effects against the disease.
|↑1||Pezeshki, Adel, Rizaldy C. Zapata, Arashdeep Singh, Nicholas J. Yee, and Prasanth K. Chelikani. “Low protein diets produce divergent effects on energy balance.” Scientific reports 6 (2016): 25145.|