Health Questions and Answers

Question: Is Protein the most Important Nutrient?


Components of human nutrition:
1. Macronutrients
a.   protein
b.  carbohydrates
c.   fat
2. Micronutrients
a. vitamins
b. electrolytes
c. trace elements

Because all that have mention above are vital in the great scheme of things, it seems pointless to ask if one or another is the most important. Failure to obtain any of these nutrients may be harmful, even catastrophic. However most people feel that protein is indeed the most important, and for good reason.

Protein is the building material for the structure of the body. Protein is broken down into amino acids, and amino acids are the basis for synthesis of the body: bone and muscle, skin and brain. Moreover, amino acids are used to make nucleic acids, which form the genetic code as well as the molecules which store energy within the body. At a very basic level, protein is what we are made of.

Protein is the least available and most expensive of the macronutrients. Throughout the world, diets lacking in protein result in stunted growth in children. People in poor countries and poor areas of wealthy countries, notably

Africa, exist on marginal diets, which certainly do not contain enough protein. So, for socioeconomic reasons, if no other, we can say that protein is the most important of the nutrients.

Reference: Deitel M (ed): Nutrition in Clinical Surgery, 2nd ed. Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins, 1985.

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