Y O R K m i n d - b o d y H E A LT H 01904 435 267 Glyn Blackett What Is Protein?
Protein and the Diet
About half the dry weight of your body is We obtain our amino acid building blocks, from protein. There are thousands of different kinds of which our cells build our proteins, from dietaryprotein molecules, performing a variety of protein. Plants and animals like us are built from functions. Most protein is structural – it makes protein. We don’t use dietary protein molecules up skin, hair, bone and teeth. Enzymes – directly - rather they are broken down in the molecules which drive chemical reactions in the process of digestion into the constituent amino body – are mostly proteins. Other examples are: Haemoglobin – found in red blood cells, it is Actually the body can make several amino acids vital for transporting oxygen to cells.
from others, but eight of the twenty-two are Insulin – a hormone or signalling molecule.
essential, meaning they can’t be made and mustbe obtained from the diet. Several more amino Protein and Amino Acids
acids are semi-essential meaning they can’t be A protein molecule is made up of a sequence of basic building blocks called amino acids, joined Fully meeting the body’s protein needs requires end to end. (The chemical bonds between aminoacids are called peptide bonds.) Protein i You eat adequate amounts of the amino acids, molecules differ in terms of the number of ii Your body can successfully break down the specific sequence. Most proteins are able to protein you eat and absorb the amino acids serve their particular purpose by virtue of the 3D shape of the molecule, which is likewise a function of the specific number and sequence ofamino acids.
Protein and Digestion
There are 22 amino acids found in nature. All The breaking down of proteins into amino acids happens largely by the action of stomach acid, inthe presence of particular enzymes called Proteins and Genes
proteases. If you don’t produce enough of these, Your body manufactures proteins to order. The blueprints for proteins are found in the genes.
compromised. Stomach acid insufficiency, a That’s essentially what a gene is - a blueprint for condition known as hypochlorhydria, isone or more protein molecules. If the relatively common. Stomach acid production manufacturing process goes wrong, the result is naturally declines as we age. Furthermore, many often a protein with the wrong sequence of people take acid suppressing medications.
amino acids. Because these faulty molecules Conversely true cases of stomach acid excess are form unexpected 3D shapes, they can’t perform rare - often what is perceived as an excess of their intended functions. In the genetic disease acid is actually an inability of the stomach lining sickle-cell anaemia, haemoglobin molecules turn to withstand its own acid - a problem with theout wrong in just this way, with the consequence stomach lining not the acid. Alternatively if thethat the blood cannot transport oxygen in the acid gets to places where it shouldn’t (notably the oesophagus) it is treated as excess acid.
Protein Sources
Protein – Carbohydrate Balance
Dietary protein comes from both plant and Another important function of dietary protein is that it slows the absorption of sugar into the Animal: meats, fish, eggs, diary products
blood, which can cause problems if it’s too fast.
Balanced, stable blood sugar levels are importantfor mood and energy stability. Therefore a useful Plant: beans and pulses, nuts, whole grains,
principle is to have a protein component for seeds (fruit and vegetables contain negligible every meal. This has the benefit of being more Protein Quality
Breakfast is for many people is protein-light – As stated, we need the full range of amino acids although milk is a source of good quality protein in the right proportions – especially the eight it doesn't have large amounts (as it's a liquid).
essential amino acids. This idea is quantified as An egg at breakfast time is a good way to get the Biological Value (BV) of a protein source - a your protein.
high value source has all the essential amino Snacks are also commonly lacking in protein.
acids in the right proportions. It turns out that Ideal snacks are nuts and seeds, which have a animal sources in general have higher BV. Many variety of healthy nutrients besides protein. Oat plant sources such as brown rice, are missing cakes with cottage cheese, tinned fish or one or more of the essential amino acids.
hummus also make easy snacks or even light However, soya beans and quinoa do contain all eight (they are known as complete proteins).
Note that eating large amounts of animal foods Protein as Energy
is probably not healthy for other reasons, so Protein is not just used structurally by the body, plant sources, which have other health-giving it can also be burned to release energy. Whilst properties besides, should not be neglected.
this is a natural process happening to some Here are some BV scores of some typical high extent all the time, in conditions of starvation, protein can become the major source of energy.
Muscle wastage is the result of the bodymetabolising its own protein for energy. This isone reason why semi-starvation diets are a badidea - some of the weight loss is not fat loss butmuscle loss.
Evidence suggests that different people’smetabolisms are tuned to burn carbohydrates andproteins with more or less efficiency. Thepractical consequence is that some people willdo much better on a diet relatively high inprotein, while others a relatively low protein dietserves them best. This idea is behind the conceptof metabolic typing, covered in a separatearticle.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
Estimates vary. The World Health Organisationsuggests around 10% of your total calorie intakeshould come from protein, or around 35g a day.
The UK Department of Health suggests 36g forwomen and 44g for men. Some weight loss dietssuggest much higher amounts.
Too much protein is not a good idea. It can cause amino acid called tryptophan. In one study,osteoporosis and can put excessive strain on the subjects who ate a diet devoid of tryptophan kidneys. Modern farming methods mean that developed symptoms of depression (2). Thus we many animal sources of protein contain high can conclude that adequate protein in our diet is levels of hormones such as oestrogen. Contary to important for mental and emotional functioning.
popular opinion, you don’t need high levels or protein to build muscle mass, even if you are a 1. Source: 'The Insulin Factor' by Antony The right level is really an individual matter - it 2. This study was published in the Lancet in 1997.
depends on your individual biochemistry.
(Smith, K. et al. 1997 ‘Relapse of depression afterrapid depletion of trypophan’ Lancet Vol.349 Amino Acids and Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are molecules that transmitsignals between nerve cells, and as such are avital aspect of brain functioning. Examples ofneurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine. Itis thought that neurotransmitter imbalance playsa role in mood disorders such as depression, andcognitive disorders such as ADHD.
Neurotransmitters are either amino acidsthemselves or are derived biochemically fromthem. Serotonin for instance is derived from an



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