Protein Deficiency

Protein is an essential component of the body. The organs, muscle, brain, nerves, and immune system are all, to some degree, comprised of protein. You name the body structure, and it probably has some protein in it. Since protein is one of the fundamental building blocks for the body, you need to ensure that you get enough in your diet.

Every protein molecule is composed of amino acids. Twenty-two amino acids are used in different combinations to build the protein molecules found in food and in the body’s structures. Eight of these amino acids are considered essential (histidine would make the total 9 but is considered conditionally essential), and must be supplied through the diet. The other 14 amino acids (non-essential amino acids) can either be consumed in the diet or manufactured from other building blocks within the body.


Conditions that suggest Protein Deficiency


Lab Values  

Hypoalbuminemia (A low albumin level)

Insufficient dietary protein and excess carbohydrate intake may be related to a low albumin level.


Edema (Water Retention)

When protein (especially albumin) levels in your blood go too low, the colloidal osmotic pressure will decrease and allow fluid to escape from blood vessels into your tissues, resulting in edema or swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, knees and/or belly.


Vitamin A Requirement

A deficiency of protein or zinc can reduce the amount of vitamin A released from the liver.

Organ Health  

Fatty Liver

Among children and in the developing countries, malnutrition, especially protein and iron deficiencies, are the most common cause of fat buildup in the liver.


Risk factors for Protein Deficiency


Elevated SHBG

A study published in 2000 examined the relationship between diet and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), and found that diets low in protein in elderly men [40-70 years old] may lead to elevated SHBG levels and decreased testosterone availability. The decrease in bioavailable testosterone can then result in declines in sexual function and muscle and red cell mass, and contribute to the loss of bone density. [J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Jan; 85(1):293-6]

Lab Values - Chemistries  




Lab Values - Nutrients  

(Very) low tryptophan levels

Symptoms - Food - Intake  

Not eating mercury containing fish


Absence of red meat consumption


Absence of fowl consumption

Counter Indicators
Symptoms - Food - Intake  

(High) egg yolk consumption


Frequent soy consumption

Symptoms - Food - Preferences  

Vegan/raw food diet

Protein Deficiency can lead to


Organ Health  

Fatty Liver

Among children and in the developing countries, malnutrition, especially protein and iron deficiencies, are the most common cause of fat buildup in the liver.

Recommendations for Protein Deficiency



Therapeutic Fasting

Fasting should not be used when there is malnutrition.


Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Strongly counter-indicative
Highly recommended
Reasonably likely to cause problems



Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.

Immune System

A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.


An amino acid. Precursor to histamine, a vasodilator and gastric juice stimulant. Has been used as a therapeutic aid for arthritis.


The sugars and starches in food. Sugars are called simple carbohydrates and found in such foods as fruit and table sugar. Complex carbohydrates are composed of large numbers of sugar molecules joined together, and are found in grains, legumes, and vegetables like potatoes, squash, and corn.


Abnormal accumulation of fluids within tissues resulting in swelling.


An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.

Vitamin A

A fat-soluble vitamin essential to one's health. Plays an important part in the growth and repair of body tissue, protects epithelial tissue, helps maintain the skin and is necessary for night vision. It is also necessary for normal growth and formation of bones and teeth. For Vitamin A only, 1mg translates to 833 IU.


An essential mineral. Prevents anemia: as a constituent of hemoglobin, transports oxygen throughout the body. Virtually all of the oxygen used by cells in the life process are brought to the cells by the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Iron is a small but most vital, component of the hemoglobin in 20,000 billion red blood cells, of which 115 million are formed every minute. Heme iron (from meat) is absorbed 10 times more readily than the ferrous or ferric form.


Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.


The principal male sex hormone that induces and maintains the changes that take place in males at puberty. In men, the testicles continue to produce testosterone throughout life, though there is some decline with age. A naturally occurring androgenic hormone.

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