Among the many functions of proteins in the body are to build and grow muscle, and to repair damaged cells as well as create new ones, when necessary. Protein is also what helps children grow from the time of being a fetus in the womb throughout adolescence. Made of amino acids, proteins are present in animal and human cells.
Other functions of proteins in the body are to support healthy organs, including the skin, as well as glands that produce hormones. Without proteins, the body is unable to repair damaged cell molecules, muscle tissue and organs. It is also unable to build antibodies needed to support the functioning of a healthy immune system.
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The functions of proteins in the body are numerous and complex. Initially, the ingredients used to make proteins are garnered from 20 different amino acids which, when combined, create several different types of protein. Certain types of amino acids are essential to the human body, but can only be gained from food sources like fish, red meat, chicken and dairy products. Certain vegetables, beans and rice also contain amino acids, but many of these are less essential than those coming from animal food sources.
Certain proteins, known as enzymes, exist solely to help the digestive system break food down for the storage and transport of energy. This movement of energy is what helps nutrients flow to all parts of the body. Other enzymes are also necessary for clotting blood. Without these enzymatic catalysts, serious health threats may occur.
It is easy for many of the functions of proteins in the body to go unnoticed. Most people have enough protein to naturally support healthy cell functions, antibody development and muscle development without needing to make a special effort to supplement protein. In protein-deficient individuals, however, symptoms such as fatigue, edema, a loss of muscle mass and slow wound healing are likely to persist. Protein deficiencies are not common, but they do occur and can most often be found among people living in impoverished areas where a lack of access to protein-rich foods contributes to symptoms.
To be sure that the functions of proteins in the body are supported by adequate dietary intake, experts recommend consuming two or three protein sources per day. Serving sizes for each food choice may vary. Food options may also vary from protein-rich meats to numerous dairy products, beans, legumes or a variety of protein-rich vegetable sources.