Protein is one of the most essential macronutrients for human health. It is a building block of our tissues and organs. In fact, it makes up the majority of our bones, muscles, skin and hair. The amount of protein we need depends on our age, activity level and caloric needs.
Protein is formed when amino acids join together to form long chains. These chains are then folded into tertiary and quaternary structures. Tertiary structure is stabilized by hydrogen bonds, salt bridges and disulfide bonds.
There are over 10,000 different proteins in the body. They have various functions including repairing damaged cells, reducing inflammation, creating new tissue in the event of injury and carrying oxygen throughout the bloodstream.
Proteins are classified into two groups: structural and functional. Structural proteins are the structural components of the human body. Examples include collagen and keratin. Other protein types are glycoproteins and lipoproteins.
Functional proteins include enzymes, hormones, growth factors and cell membrane receptors. Typically, these proteins are made of hundreds of amino acids and are able to participate in the chemical processes of the body.
Proteins are also used to carry iron through the bloodstream and help keep the body healthy. However, too much protein can lead to excess fat storage, making it difficult to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
The basic structure of proteins is a chain of amino acid residues linked by covalent bonds. These ‘letters’ can be arranged in millions of different ways.