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How the Body Uses Protein

Protein is a major component in most diets found worldwide. Based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, the Food and Drug Administration recommends the daily intake of protein be approximately 50 grams. Foods that are typically classified as meats all contain large amounts of protein. Other abundant sources of protein include nuts, eggs, soy, and dairy products. Proteins are long chains of linked amino acids. Along with carbohydrates, fatty acids, and nucleic acids, amino acids are considered a basic building block of life. Our bodies are able to digest dietary protein and break them down into basic amino acid units. The amino acids can be reconstructed into new proteins that our bodies require in order to function.

Amino Acids

There are 20 different types of amino acids. Although our body can synthesize some of them, nine of the amino acids are considered “essential amino acids” and are entirely obtained from dietary sources. Amino acids link together through peptide bonds to form long chains called peptides. Through complex biochemical processes, peptide chains bind together in unique configurations to form larger protein molecules that serve a specific function. People who have increased requirements for protein such as bodybuilders, athletes, children, or certain medical conditions require a larger amount of protein in their diet.

Proteins Add Structure

Protein is used by the body as a major structural component. Organs, muscles, and other tissues all utilize protein to build their physical structure. In this case, the function of protein would be as variable as the different type of tissues found inside the body.

Protein Enzymes

Enzymes are also largely constructed from proteins. In addition to regulating and initiating many biochemical reactions, enzymes are also able to synthesize macromolecules to be used by the body. In some cases, enzymes are even responsible for making more protein. The body contains a vast assortment of enzymes, each with a specific purpose and function.

Protein for Transport

Proteins also serve as carriers to transport biological molecules from one area of the body to another. Transport could include long distances through the bloodstream or very short distances across cellular layers and membranes. Albumin, the major protein found in blood is capable of binding many biological molecules including drugs.

Protein Used for Energy

The liver is capable of converting some amino acids into glucose. Glucose is a carbohydrate used by cells and tissues as the primary source of energy to drive biochemical processes. Since protein is a large component of the diet, it is also a major source of energy.

Protein Cellular Hormones and Markers

Proteins are also used as hormones which are utilized by cells and tissues to communicate and signal to other areas within the body. In addition, proteins form molecular structures that can be used as markers for cellular identification. Many of the individualized characteristics of a person’s unique biological identity is due to protein variance.

Proteins have many other functions including receptors, antibodies, and glands. Since the roles of proteins inside our bodies are so immense, it is important to obtain a sufficient amount of essential amino acids from our diet. Strict vegetarians should ensure that alternatives sources of protein are providing an adequate amount of the essential amino acids.

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