18 Signs Of Protein Deficiency That May Affect Your Health

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

Protein is one of vital macronutrient that is may be considered essential for our body. Several body functions cannot be successfully executed without enough protein.

Muscle mass, cell repair, bone health and healthy weight management all come under the sphere of protein. Since it is so essential, the body must meet the required protein requiremnents throughout the day. 

Otherwise, the body becomes a target for several deficiencies. To ensure that you are not attracted towards protein deficiency, you must know what are the signs that indicate it.

This article will focus on the symptoms you should not ignore and boost your protein intake if suspected to be deficient. 

  1. Loss Of Muscle Mass

    Muscles are in dire need of protein for growth and maintenance, so they store big chunks of protein. 

    In case, there is protein deficiency, the body turns to muscles to get protein for more important functions and tissues. As a result, muscle mass is lost.

    This impact is observed higher in older adults as protein needs shoot up with age. Consuming enough protein helps reduce muscle degeneration. 

  1. Oedema

    Oedema is a term used to refer to swelling caused by fluid buildup in the body. The skin becomes puffy due to excessive fluid retention. 

    The main cause of oedema is believed to be a lack of protein albumin. It is a human serum present in abundance in blood plasma. 

     Albumin is responsible for draining extra fluid into the blood by maintaining oncotic pressure. Its deficiency causes retention of the fluid which causes puffiness. 

  1. Kwashiorkor Disease

    This disease is malnutrition induced by severe protein deficiency. Another name for the disease is edematous malnutrition.

    It is characterised by oedema and fatty liver. The disease is more common among children and people in remote areas due to a lack of nutritious food.

  1. Fatty Liver

    It is a condition in which excessive fat accumulation occurs in the liver. The problems it may cause are fatty liver disease and liver failure.

    Although it has more to do with fats, protein deficiency may still lead to this problem.

    It might be the lipoproteins, the protein that transport fat, that causes this problem.

    Alcoholics and obese people have a higher tendency to develop this symptom. 

    It may also make you prone to other liver problems like difficulty removing lipids and toxins. 

  1. Childhood Stunting

    Protein deficiency may affect body growth. Childhood stunting is the disrupted growth of a child and a failure in reaching the full potential of growth. 

    It is the lack of nutritious meals in growing years that leads to malnutrition. Childhood stunting is another common symptom of kwashiorkor disease. 

    A few impacts are an underdeveloped brain, affected learning capacity,  recurrent infections,  anxiety and depression. 

  1. Damaged Skin, Hair, And Nails

    Severe protein deficiency may affect external beauty factors like skin, hair and nails. The skin may undergo pigmentation in patches.

    Rashes and flaky or splitting skin might also be notable signs of protein deficiency.

    Hair may be affected in the form of faded colour and thinning. Nails might get brittle or develop certain marks due to the deficiency. 

  1. Deteriorating Bone Health

    Bone mineral density and bone strength also correlate with protein intake. The lower the protein intake, the greater the risk of bone loss and fractures. Long-term deficiency may pave the way to osteoporosis.

    A study on postmenopausal women also confirmed that with higher protein intake, the risk of hip fracture and bone loss may be reduced to a great extent.

    So if you notice bone-related issues like pain or frequent fractures, it might be hinting towards protein deficiency. 

  1. Weight Gain

    Protein deficiency affects every person in different ways. For some, it reduces appetite and calorie intake while for others it increases hunger and food intake. 

    It might be due to the increased hunger hormone ghrelin because of protein deficiency. It could make you crave certain foods that contain some amounts of protein.

    However, protein content might be relatively low in comparison to carbs or fats. So you may feel hungry frequently, overeat and even end up gaining weight.

  1. Infections

    The immune system is our body’s defence mechanism against flu and infections. For a healthy immune function, protein intake should be within healthy limits.

    A deficiency may make you vulnerable to catching infections and recovery might be hard.

    Recurrent infections are also a sign of severe protein deficiency. These claims were also confirmed by a study conducted on mice.

  1. Mood Change

    Neurotransmitters are the information carriers used by the brain to relay intercellular information. These are made up of amino acids.

    As amino acids are building blocks of protein, the lack of protein in the diet may affect the functioning of the brain. It may change how information is transmitted and affect mood quality.

    The effect might be noticeable in hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Thus, it may make you angry, aggressive,  depressed or irritated.

  1. Weakness

    A lack of protein might make you feel tired and lethargic. It is also responsible for muscle mass loss and decreased strength and stamina.

    In the longer run, it may affect your ability to maintain posture and will gradually degrade your metabolism. Protein deficiency also causes more problems with increasing age.

    People who are 55 or above and have protein deficiency may encounter difficulty in maintaining their posture and witness restricted body movements. 

  1. Slow Healing Process

    Our body has an inbuilt mechanism to deal with different types of injuries. But for performing that function at par and for the platelets to clot blood, protein is required.

    A deficiency of the same may lead to delayed healing. The cuts and scrapes may take a little longer to heal. Similarly, the sprains, damaged skin or other body tissues may last longer.

    It is an impact of less collagen in tissues due to protein deficiency. 

  1. Brain Fog

    A sudden burst of energy accompanied by brain fog a few moments later is a sign of both protein deficiency and fluctuating blood sugar levels. Such symptoms should be observed closely and reported to the doctors. 

  1. Muscle And Joint Pain

    A sudden burst of energy accompanied by brain fog a few moments later is a sign of both protein deficiency and fluctuating blood sugar levels. Such symptoms should be observed closely and reported to the doctors. 
  1. Anaemia

    A lack of protein comes with an attached risk of a deficit of other nutrients also. Protein deficiency reduces the ability of the body to absorb nutrients.

    Thus, it may make you undernourished. Moreover, it may lead to a lack of vitamin B-12 and folate. Therefore, it may make you prone to anaemia.

    In this condition, the body fails to produce enough red blood cells. Further, anaemia may cause low bp, fatigue or dizziness. 

  1. Poor Concentration

    Protein deficiency affects neuron activity. Also, it hinders the ability to process information.

    A low concentration of essential amino acids in plasma and the brain depletes the neurotransmitters present. Thus, concentration, learning and retaining skills might be affected.

  1. Affected Weight Management

    There are two related conditions to weight loss due to protein deficiency. The first one is kwashiorkor disease. It occurs when there is protein deficiency but enough calories.

    Another one is Marasmus, which has a deficiency of both calories and protein. In such cases, the body utilises protein for energy rather than maintaining muscle mass. Thus it may induce weight loss.

  1. Low Blood Pressure

    Low-fat percentage and protein deficiency in the body cause blood pressure to drop. Lack of protein in blood devoids important tissues of vital nutrients.

    Thus, it may also result in a low heart rate between 60-100 beats per minute. Additional symptoms may be lightheadedness, shortness of breath and lead fainting. 


Protein is vital for body function management. Its deficiency shows adverse effects on the body.

FTrouble in losing or gaining weight, difficulty learning, weakness, fatigue and affected metabolism are a few of the symptoms of protein deficiency. In case you experience any of these, book an appointment with your doctor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *