Bartecchi: Protein — one of life’s chief components

Pueblo Chieftain

According to Tufts Medical Center, eating protein is important. Every cell in the body contains protein. You need protein to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is also important for growth and development in children, teens and pregnant women. Protein makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in our blood.

Though most people get enough protein in their regular diet, it is important to know how much protein we need each day. The June 22, 2023 Harvard Health article tells us that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is .36 grams per pound. However, it’s not that simple. The true protein number varies with the individual's age, sex, height, weight, activity and pregnancy. All these variables can be incorporated by using, in one’s computer search engine, the "DR1 CALCULATOR FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS." That site will allow you to input your personal information and determine the true amount of protein you need each day, along with all the other micronutrients (carbohydrates, fats) and even vitamins and minerals. It will also estimate your daily caloric needs.

A Harvard report notes that during pregnancy, experts recommend 75 to 100 grams of protein daily for developing fetal tissue as well as for the enlarging placenta, breasts and blood supply. Cambell et al., in the June 23, 2023 Journal of Gerontology, discusses at length the dietary protein needs of older adults. Insufficient protein intake, often due to a reduced appetite can result in reduced muscle size, strength and function. Older adults who consume a variety of high quality protein rich foods, have a lower risk of decline in physical performance. It is suspected that 30% of males and 50% of females aged 71 and older, have inadequate protein intake. For older adults with diagnosed medical conditions or acute illnesses, specialized protein or amino acid supplements can prevent the loss of muscle mass and improve survival of malnourished patients. The exception would be for older adults where 46% of those aged 70 and older, live with chronic kidney disease (that is often unrecognized) where a low protein diet would be indicated. It is important to recognize that according to a March 15, 2023 review article in the Nutrients Journal, that high protein consumption does not affect cardiovascular prognosis regarding risk of stroke, heart attack or cardiovascular death.

According to Mayo Clinic Health, June 15, 2023, it is better to meet dietary protein needs with whole foods rather than supplements. It is also best to spread out your protein intake with about 15 to 30 grams of protein at each meal. According to the Mayo Clinic, June 15, 2023, the healthiest protein options are plant sources such as soy, nuts, seeds beans and lentils, though lean meats, such as skinless, white-meat chicken or turkey, a variety of fish or seafood, egg whites and low-fat dairy are also excellent protein sources. A nice listing of protein content of common foods is available and can be found at the web site "JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE PROTEIN CONTENT OF COMMON FOODS." You can tell how much protein is in a food by reading the Nutrition Facts package label on the food package. Harvard Health however, makes a good point that helps clear up some confusion. A 3.5 ounce serving of turkey breast weighs 100 grams, but does not contain 100 grams of protein. That is because the breast also contains fat and water. The 3.5 ounce serving of turkey breast has less than 30 grams of protein. Helps in the practical understanding of these numbers is as follows: One gram is about the weight of one small paper clip, a thumbtack or a sugar packet. There are 7 grams of protein in one ounce of protein.

Should you need or desire a protein supplement, you can search your computer for "JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE SUGGESTED PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS."

Plant based fake meats have been on the market for some time, and can be rich sources of protein and are higher in fiber than real meat. They can also contain less saturated fat and thus further differing from red meat. They can also taste great. However, they have not achieved the level of food industry adoption that they have been seeking.

Thompson, in the June 30, 2023 Scientific American, updates us on the USDA and FDA approvals of cell cultured meat. Chicken cells are grown into slabs of meat with no slaughtering required and the suggestion that they will be better for the environment should also help. According to Dietitian, Hunnes at UCLA Health, this cultivated meat is almost nutritionally identical to farm raised meat, including its protein content. Presently, however, it is also very expensive. Other cell cultured meat products will follow soon.

Summary of important searches:




Dr. Carl Bartecchi

Dr. Carl E. Bartecchi, MD, is a Pueblo physician and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.