When it comes to the necessity of proteins in our body, most of us believe that it is only needed by athletes and bodybuilders. But the fact is that it is an essential nutrient for all of us. Proteins have other major functions in the body as well, apart from tissue repair and synthesis.
In this article, we will discuss how protein plays an important role in keeping our immune system strong. All desire a healthy immune system and it is crucial to protect ourselves from infections, viruses, bacteria’s, other foreign pathogens and diseases.
Some of the rich sources of proteins are milk and milk products, meat, fish, poultry, pulses, soybean, nuts, eggs and seeds. On consuming dietary proteins, they are metabolised into amino acids. Our body utilises these amino acids to synthesize new proteins called antibodies. These antibodies are required by our immune system and are present in our blood to immediately fight off any unwanted foreign bodies like viruses, bacteria’s, etc.
White blood cells in the body form the components of the immune system. There are lymphocytes and macrophages, which play a key role. T-cells are a type of lymphocytes, which are present in the thymus gland and form the third line of defence of our immune system. To synthesise all these cells, we need proteins.
Numerous studies have observed that protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) exerts a detrimental effect on the T-cells and impairs their functioning. It happens because PEM causes a dip in amino acids concentration in our plasma. This has also been observed as the major reason for mortality and morbidity among hospitalised patients. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a positive nitrogen balance.
Amino acids play a very important role in the synthesis of natural killer cells, the proliferation of lymphocytes, production of cytokines and other cytotoxic substances. All these naturally strengthen our immunity. Most common amino acids utilised by our immune system are glutamine, cysteine and arginine. Similarly, tryptophan also plays a major role in modulating host-mediated immune responses. Histidine is another amino acid possessing powerful anti-inflammatory properties, hence significantly contributes to providing immunity.
To sum up, proteins are of utmost importance for immune health. Amino acids present act as building blocks of our immune cells and specific proteins needed to build immunity. Lack of protein makes us more susceptible to infections, inflammation, bacterial and viral attacks. Therefore, make sure to have sufficient protein intake as per your body needs.