Healthy Living

The power of Protein; How important is it?

Protein is a powerful nutrient and is part of every living cell. From building the tissues in your body to making important hormones it plays a major role in your body. Naturally, this makes the inclusion of adequate protein in your daily diet extremely important and more so when you get older.

What is protein?

This macronutrient is utilised by your body for building, repairing, and maintaining tissues. Amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, have over 20 varieties that are needed by the body. They combine to make various types of protein.

Out of these, eight are essential, but are not made by the body; they need to come from your food. The other 12 are made by the body and are considered nonessential.

The other 12 are made by the body and are considered nonessential.

The proteins in your body are broken down and replaced constantly. Your body requires a daily dose of amino acids to make new proteins because it doesn’t store them like it does with carbs and fats. The protein consumed through your diet is digested and converted into amino acids by your body; these are used to replace those proteins that are lost.


The role of protein in the body

Protein performs many functions for the body and so, adequate dietary protein intake is vital when it comes to building, maintaining, and repairing body tissues. The body’s structural components, such as skin, muscles, bones, and organs are made up, in large part, by protein. Protein is also an integral part of various chemical reactions that occur in the body and is also included in the makeup of many hormones and enzymes that function to regulate body processes.

Antibodies that fight disease also need protein. They also supply the body with energy in case your consumption of carbs and fats aren’t enough.

Current protein intake recommendations

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kg of body weight per day. This is equal to about 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. A protein intake at this level will help to keep the body from slowly breaking down other tissues.


Protein needs for older adults

Current research and expert opinion shows that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight may not be adequate as we age. The current RDA was made based on research in young adults and does not promote optimal health or protect older adults from sarcopenic muscle loss (loss of muscle and function with aging). Experts now estimate that older adults need 1.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight or higher, per day. Additionally, researchers recommend that an adequate amount of protein intake with each meal is important to promote protein anabolism (protein building). These recommendations state that an intake of 25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein per meal is necessary for optimal muscle protein synthesis. This is particularly beneficial for older adults to help maintain muscle mass.

Since protein plays many vital roles in your body’s functioning and is a part of every tissue from your organs and muscles to your skin, it’s important that you consume high-quality protein regularly. This is especially important as you grow older, ensuring that your body has adequate amounts of amino acids to function without issue.

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