Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.
Proteins are made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller units called amino acids, which are attached to one another in long chains. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to make a protein. The sequence of amino acids determines each protein’s unique 3-dimensional structure and its specific function.
Proteins functions as enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Enzymes speed up chemical actions such as the digestion of carbohydrates or the synthesis of cholesterol by the liver. Hormones are chemicals that are created in one part of the body and carry messages to another organ or part of the body. Antibodies are the blood proteins that attack and neutralize these invaders, so without adequate protein, your immune system cannot properly defend you against bacteria, viruses and other invaders.
Furthermore, proteins maintain both fluid and acid-base balance, transport nutrients and other compounds. Finally, protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood and it gives structure to teeth, hair and nails as well. Although proteins in the body are constantly broken down and re-synthesized as our bodies reuse most of the released amino acids, a certain amount is lost and must be replaced in the diet.