Despite being one of the most significant nutrients for a human body, protein often gets referred to as ‘The muscle man’s go to’. Regardless of the gender, Proteins are a significant part of the body tissue along with participating in thousands of metabolic processes in the body.
Women require roughly 0.8-1 gram of protein per kg body weight daily for smooth functioning of bodily activities.
A deficiency is when intake falls short of the daily requirement.
According to a study by IMRB’s ‘Understanding protein myths and gaps among Indians’ –
- Roughly 62% of expecting mothers and breast-feeding women have a protein deficiency
- 70-80% of working women and homemakers are said to be suffering from a protein deficiency.
Concerns women face due to a protein deficiency:
- Hair, Nails & Skin Complications: Skin, hair and nails are largely made up of protein. It is a macronutrient needed specifically for hair. Brittle nails, hair loss, hair thinning and flaky reddened skin are the result of this deficiency. It can also cause depigmentation and leads to a poor skin health.
- Menstrual cycle agitations: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects multiple pubescent girls and women and while it is largely undiagnosed the challenge of irregular periods are commonly faced. Obesity and insulin resistance can both increase the risk for PCOS and vice versa. A low protein diet can disrupt the delicate balance of estrogen, progesterone and other thyroid hormones, thus, resulting in an irregular cycle and altered metabolism.
- Decreased lean body mass: Muscles are the body’s largest reservoir of protein. It’s the body’s muscle tone that dictates strength. By supporting and supplementing body tissue and repair, protein is the main nutrient that builds muscular strength. A lack of protein, forces the body to breakdown these tissues to supplement deficiency, resulting in loss of muscle mass which leads to lower BMR (basal metabolic rate) and hence a decreased utilisation of fat for energy generation. An increased protein intake may also slow down the muscle degeneration process that presents itself with old age. Women have a lower muscle index compared to men, and it is easily diminishable if not tended to.
- Weak immunity: Good nutrition is the key to a fully serviceable immune system. Protein helps regenerate T blood cells, which can keep diseases at bay. Minute infections and illnesses can be warded away with substantial protein content.This is because protein makes antibodies that can fight against infections.
- Greater risk of bone fractures: Bones are also adversely affected by a low protein intake. Osteoporosis and brittle bones can not only cause fractures easily but also delay the healing process. This is due to the fact that protein is indispensable for calcium absorption and bone metabolism. Studies show that older women with the utmost bone predicaments are those with a low protein intake of roughly 16-50 grams daily.
Protein can be found in daily foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products like milk and cheese, beans, soy, tofu and even legumes like chickpeas. They are readily available in our daily diet but can easily be overlooked, especially in the case of vegetarians.
Since protein is found almost everywhere in the body, including muscles, skin, hair, bones and blood, the lack of it has a wide range of symptoms. Overlooked by women, a serious absence can cause swollen feet, fatty liver, increased severity of infections and skin degeneration as well as hormonal imbalance. For optimal health, protein rich foods must be consumed in every meal.