Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is Protein

What is protein? Protein comes from a Greek word meaning “primary”. It was first described by a Swedish chemist by the name of Berzelius in 1838. The first protein to be sequenced into its individual amino-acids(building blocks) was insulin, by Frederick Sanger, who won the Nobel Prize in 1958. How are protein and amino-acids interconnected? Amino-acids are the building blocks of protein. When Dr. Sanger sequenced insulin he actually discovered which amino-acids went in which order to produce insulin.

What is protein and why is it an essential nutrient? Protein is an indispensable nutrient, meaning that it must be consumed in the diet. Your body has no other way of getting this essential nutrient other than what you consume. Protein can be found in every single tissue in the body. It is in your skin, your hair and even in your bone and muscle.

At least 10000 different proteins of different shapes and sizes help to build your body and maintain it. With genetic codes as a blueprint, protein is built from amino-acids. The sequencing of these amino-acids determines the protein’s structure. We have a limited amount of amino-acids, but an infinite array of arrangements of those to get a protein. There are about 20 basic building blocks that our bodies use to get all the necessary proteins. While some proteins require short chains of amino-acids, others require multiple long chains that are intertwined and have a complex three-dimensional structure. When you digest that complex protein, the acids in your stomach help to unwind it.

There are essential amino-acids that you must have in your diet. The essential amino-acids are: Histidine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine.

Non-essential amino-acids are also important for creating protein, but why aren’t they essential? Non-essential means that under normal circumstances of wellness you can make those in your body. Non-essential amino-acids are: Alanine, Arginine, Aspartate, Cysteine, Glutamate, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine and Asparagine.

We’re talking about these non-essential amino-acids being made by your body when you are well. There are conditions and circumstances in your life where your body can’t keep up with the demand for these amino-acids. Sometimes you’ll see these amino-acids shuffle between essential and non-essential (depending the source you read). Part of it is because during periods of stress and illness your body may actually need some dietary support of these traditionally non-essential amino-acids.

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