11 Protein Deficiency Diseases, Symptoms and Disorders

Protein Deficiency Diseases is something everyone should be aware about in modern world. Apart from being a disease in malnutrition countries, Protein Deficiency diseases and symptoms were recently observed in Diet Plans which doesn’t follow rules of Balanced Diet Chart.

A healthy diet is the one that comprises of all the nutrients in proper proportion. A diet that has a low amount of protein does not fulfill your daily protein needs. It is called a protein-deficient diet. This diet can cause various health consequences, and if your body remains deficient in this nutrient for a prolonged time, then it can even lead to death. It has been seen that children and elderly people are the ones who are most impacted by protein deficiency diseases.  

Based on the research, it is found that people who have a low amount of animal-derived protein and dependent on plant-based foods to meet their protein requirements experienced better health and increased lifespan. On the contrary, people who consumed diets that are rich in animal-derived protein were associated with early mortality, osteoporosis, liver and kidney malfunction, colon cancer, and more. 

In this article, we will look at the types of protein deficiency diseases in detail. (1)

Protein Deficiency Diseases

Protein Deficiency Diseases

The deficiency of adequate protein in the diet is the leading cause of death in children. This situation is prevalent in several poor and underdeveloped nations in the world. Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are two primary signs of protein deficiency. Kwashiorkor impacts a million children throughout the world.

 The major cause for it was a deficiency of protein and other micronutrients that included folate, iodine, vitamin C, and iron. It was characterized by various symptoms such as edema of feet and legs, hair thinning, swelling, anemia, diarrhea, peeling skin, fatigue, irritability, light-colored hair, radiant skin, and a pot-belly. 

Marasmus was another protein deficiency syndrome that affected adults and children who do not have adequate protein and calories in their diet. It was characterized by chronic fatigue, growth retardation, starvation, diarrhea, poor skin health, etc. (2)


A protein-deficient diet is very low in proteins. It fails to provide proper amounts of amino acids needed for the production of albumin. Due to less than permissible amounts of albumin, the body is not able to hold water/fluid in the blood capillaries. Due to which the water flows out of the blood capillaries into tissues and causes swelling.


Due to a lack of protein in your diet, it can lead to a loss of muscle mass in the body. It reduces body strength and slows down the rate of metabolism in the day. In such a condition, the body is unable to maintain its balance. Protein deficiency can also lead to anemia wherein the cells of the body fails to get the adequate amount of oxygen. It makes you feel extremely tired and fatigue.  

Skin problems

Skin is an important organ in the body. A large part of it is made from protein. So, deficiency of protein in the diet also impacts this organ. It is observed in the form of redness on the skin, de-pigmented and peeling skin, and other types of skin woes. If you are noticing these signs, then maybe you need to increase your protein intake. 


Lack of protein in the diet can also make you irritable and moody. It can put you on a roller coaster ride of emotional fluctuations. You can feel excited and overly happy at one time and depressed at the other moment. If you relate to this type of behavior, then it could be because of hormonal imbalance in the body.

Your body is not capable of making an adequate number of neurotransmitters. This leads to a change in the processing of the brain. Due to low dopamine and serotonin levels, you may either feel overly aggressive or depressed. (3)

Muscle wasting

Protein is the building block of the body. Our muscles are made up of it. The right amount of protein is required to keep them healthy and maintain its density in the body. If you do not consume an adequate amount of protein in your diet, then your body will start to draw protein from the muscles. 

Due to low muscle protein levels, it will start to shrink in size. Not just it will impact the shape of your physique, but also reduce metabolism in the body. This is another way in which deficiency of protein can lead to weight gain. 


Lack of protein impacts the functioning of each and every organ in the body. It impairs the immune system that may make your system disable to fight against infections in the body. It has been seen that the major cause behind the death of undernourished children is diarrhea, and pneumonia that results from viral or bacterial infection. 

Less than adequate amounts of protein in the diet cause the immune system to get compromised. Due to which the body is susceptible to external attacks and getting infected. So, protein deficiency is closely linked to the suppression of your defense mechanism of the body and leads to infection. (4)

Hair And Nail Problems

As our nails and hair are largely composed of protein, the deficiency of this nutrient can adversely impact their appearance, texture, and health. It is also visible in the form of faded hair color, dull and lifeless hair, brittle and shineless nails, thinning of hair/hair loss, etc. 

Bone Fractures

Another sign of protein deficiency is that it can reduce the density of bones. Poor protein intake can cause your bones to become weaker and more susceptible to damage and fracture. People who eat a protein-deficient diet are at a high risk of broken bones, joint pain, and other bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis. Eating the right amount of protein helps preserve the density and strength of bones intact. (5)

Increased Calorie Intake

Protein gives you a feeling of fullness and satiety. It prevents frequent hunger pangs that can increase calorie intake in your body. In this way, adequate-protein intake helps in the prevention of excess consumption of calories in the body. However, when you do not consume the right amounts of protein in your diet, then it can lead to food cravings and unhealthy eating. All this can contribute to calorie surplus in the body that, in turn, leads to weight gain. 

Kidney Problems

Lack of protein in the diet affects almost each and every organ in the body. This includes kidneys too. The organ also needs adequate protein for its optimal functioning; otherwise, it can lead to Protein Deficiency Diseases of impaired kidney function and chronic kidney disease.

Heart Problems

Protein deficiency in the body is also responsible for causing heart diseases. A diet low in protein restricts the development of hypertrophy to the load that, in turn, leads to heart failure. Prolonged low consumption of this nutrient can lead to abnormal coagulation in the blood. The person is at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis in the veins of extremities in the body. Low protein intake can also result in a low heart rate. (6)

Frequently asked questions about Protein Deficiency Diseases

Here are some of the commonly asked questions on protein deficiency diseases.  

Which disease is caused by a deficiency of protein?

Protein deficiency is the main cause behind death in children who are less than five years old. Lack of this nutrient in your daily diet leads to swelling, skin issues, extreme tiredness, irritability, skin issues, muscle loss, and infection. In cases when the infection is severe, it can even lead to the death of the person.  

What are the disorders of proteins?

Following are the disorders of deficiency of protein in a person:
1. Hair, nail and skin problems
2. Reduced muscle mass
3. Increased possibilities of bone breakage and fractures
4. increased calorie consumption and a bigger appetite 
5. impaired immune system and increased chances of getting infected
6. weight gain
6. Fatty liver
7. Retarded development in children

What are the symptoms of protein deficiency?  

There are several signs that indicate that body does not have an adequate amount of protein in the body.
1) flaky and red skin,
2) depigmented hair 
3) brittle nails
4) reduced muscle density
5) bone fractures
6) food cravings 
7) infections.
8) Fatty liver.
9) retarded growth
If you notice the above signs, then it is time to increase protein in your daily diet. Quick identification of protein deficiency and timely measures can help prevent major diseases.

What are the causes of protein deficiency?

There are several causes that lead to a deficiency of protein in the body. Major ones being:
1. malnutrition, 
2. dieting, 
3. undereating, 
4. Hypoproteinemia, a state wherein a person doesn’t consume adequate calories or avoids the intake of specific food groups.
5. The liver is responsible for processing proteins in the body. Liver disorders such as cirrhosis and hepatitis can lead to a deficiency of this nutrient in the body. 
6. Protein deficiency can also be due to damaged or malfunctioning kidneys that fail to function properly and causes leakage of protein into the urine.
7. Another cause of protein deficiency is autoimmune damage that happens to the small intestine. The result is seen in the form of the reduced absorption of several nutrients in the body; one of them is protein. 
8. Inflammatory bowel disease can also lead to a lack of the required amount of protein in the body. The disease leads to inflammation in the small intestine. This damage can lead to various types of nutritional deficiencies that include
9. hypothermia.

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About Dr. Manoj Sharma

Dr Manoj Sharma is a cardiovascular electrophysiologist, a pioneer in catheter evacuation giving authority in arrhythmia the administrators, pacing, catheter expulsion and implantable defibrillator use. He is in like manner proficient about general cardiology, echocardiography and cardiovascular catheterisation.

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