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What Is the Connection Between Protein and the Immune System?

A diagram showing different types of white blood cells, an important part of the immune system.
The body makes use of the connection between protein and immunity to give itself long-term immunity against pathogens.
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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2014
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Protein and the immune system are connected in two ways. First, proteins from food are necessary for the body’s production of human proteins. Second, human proteins are produced based on the type of amino acids in food proteins, which influence whether cells will become antibodies or other cells. These two different proteins are important to the immune system and how it works to defend the body against foreign invasions.

Adequate protein intake is vital to all bodily systems, including the immune system. Protein is the foundation for cells, including the white blood cells that protect the body from invading viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. The protein that is present in foods in the form of amino acids helps the body produce antibodies to increase immunity.

Studies have shown that protein increases the function of the immune system by increasing immune cells. Protein and the immune system influence how well the body defends against invasions. If an adequate amount of protein is consumed, immune response can continue unhindered. When a lack of protein consumption causes deficiency, T-lymphocytes cannot work properly to prevent infection, and the amount of other white blood cells in the body decreases.

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Protein and the immune system are also connected by the production of human proteins. These proteins are produced by the body and used by various body functions. Human proteins rely on the intake of proteins from food to provide aid in these functions. Antibodies, cell walls, and interferons are made of proteins. Without the production of human proteins, these important parts cannot function at full capacity.

The adaptive immune system protects the body against attacks from the same pathogens. Leukocytes are the main white blood cells that connect protein and the immune system. These immune cells must determine the difference between proteins that are made by the cells of the body and the proteins made by invading cells.

Specific proteins called immunoglobulins connect protein and the immune system further. Immunoglobulins are part of the humoral immune system. Immunity is achieved when antibodies are produced that remember contact with invaders. B cells are the white blood cells that produce immunoglobulin proteins.

In the innate immune system, complement proteins remain in the blood but are inactive until an invasion occurs. These proteins react and target these invaders. The proteins mark the invaders for removal by phagocytes. Innate immune response also connects protein and the immune system.

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