Protein Deficiency In India – An Overview
By Dr. Narendra , Dietitian/Nutritionist
Protein deficiency in India is growing at an alarming rate but unlike calcium or iron deficiency it does not get the attention it needs. The lack of protein or a diet deficient in protein can cause fatigue or weakness. A survey conducted by The Indian Market Research Bureau titled “The protein consumption in the diet of adult Indians” has shown that about 73% of diets in urban India are deficient in protein with the shortfall in vegetarian diets being more pronounced than non-vegetarian diets.
The Necessity of Protein
Most of the Indian diet is comprised of cereals such as rice and wheat. Even though these cereals contain proteins they lack an essential amino acid known as methionine which is vital for growth and repair of tissues in the body.
The protein requirements of a person can vary depending upon the level of activity and on conditions such as pregnancy. On average a person needs 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. It is important to remember that the over consumption of proteins can put pressure on the kidneys and liver which may be hard to process. Sometimes excess protein in the body might also be converted to fat.
In addition to weakness and fatigue, proteins help to strengthen muscles, build immunity and are essential for healthy nails and hair.
Disorders Caused By Protein Deficiency
Protein-energy malnutrition or PEM is one of the main causes of childhood sickness and malnutrition in infants and children between the ages of 1-5 years. The common forms of PEM are kwashiorkor and marasmus. Both these disorders are caused when breastfeeding is terminated prematurely and replaced with diets that provide insufficient proteins to the growing child. Some of the visible features of children with these disorders are:
- Kwashiorkor: Children with this disorder have a dark, cracked and scaly skin which can be extremely irritating
- Marasmus: Children with this disorder have prominent ribs, sunken eyes, reduced body and mental growth and weak muscles.
- Food items rich in animal proteins are fish, meat, and eggs whereas the best sources of proteins for vegetarians are pulses, green leafy vegetables, and milk. One of the most nutritious foods rich in protein in soybean. Planning your meals will help you consume your daily requirement of protein.
- Protein deficiency in India occurs in both the urban and rural sectors with the rural sectors probably causing a bigger cause for concern. Therefore, increasing your intake of protein is important. This can be achieved by incorporating protein rich food into your diet or by taking protein supplements. Remember protein is important for proper growth and repair of the body. Hence, it is important to bust the myth that protein is not just important for body builders, malnourished and sick. The fact is that adequate amount of protein is essential everyone.