Protein deficiency diseases are serious health conditions that arise due to insufficient amounts of protein in the body. Protein is an important nutrient needed by the human body to replenish and repair tissues and muscles. It also plays an important role in transporting oxygen to the various muscles and organs. A significant lack of protein supply in the body could cease the normal functioning abilities of our lungs and the immune system. When this protein malnutrition is not addressed, the person may suffer from various protein deficiency diseases.
Protein deficiency is chiefly caused by malnutrition. Since protein is taken from the food we eat, when there is a significant lack of nourishment and foods rich in protein, the person can develop protein deficiency disease. When the body does not get enough protein from food, it will consume the protein that has been already stored in the body, which is also known as “recycling”. This type of deficiency can cause starvation, diseases and may sometimes lead to death.
Protein deficiency diseases affect millions of people especially those who live in poor countries due to the short supply of food. And most of its victims are children aged 5 and below. However, certain individuals like vegetarians and crash dieters may suffer from this condition if they neglect to deliver sufficient amounts of protein to their body. When this malnutrition continues, it may lead to these two most common protein deficiency diseases:
• Marasmus – This condition develop in infants, specifically those who are not breastfed and given less nutritious diet. Due to severe protein deficiency, the infant may look bony because of the significant and abrupt weight loss, and his/her organs will not develop properly as well. The bodily tissues will weaken, the skin will dry up, and the body will become feeble and weak. Mental retardation is also possible due to the improper brain development. However, Marasmus can be cured especially in the early stages, by giving the child foods rich in protein to restore their body’s normal functioning.
• Kwashiorkor – This disease mostly affects children of ages 1-3 years. These children have retarded growth, bulging eyes, thin and curved legs, dehydrated skin, dry and less hair, and poor diet. Kwashiorkor can be treated by eating healthy and balanced diet, especially foods rich in protein.
Other health diseases that are attributed to not having sufficient amounts of protein are:
• Heart diseases
• Breast cancer
• Colon cancer
• Cirrhosis of the liver
Aside from improper eating habits and malnutrition, protein deficiency can also be caused by congenital protein C or S deficiency. It is an inherited disorder that causes unusual blood clotting. A condition associated with this disorder is thrombosis. It is a formation of blood clots in the blood vessels that causes obstruction to the normal blood flow circulation.
Protein deficiency can easily be reversed by properly introducing protein into the daily diet, by carefully giving children small portions until their bodies can handle larger servings. Normally a child needs 0.5 grams of protein per every pound (0.5 kg) of body weight; while an adult needs 60 grams of protein in their daily diet. However, excessive consumption of protein can also put a person at risk of developing other health issues. So a well balanced diet and the right amount of protein are needed by the body to function normally. Remember, too little or too much of anything is always not good for the body.