Pregnancy is one of the physiological states in a women’s life that is nutritionally demanding. A well balanced diet ensures a well-nourished body that can adequately meet the demands of pregnancy, fetal development and lactation. The growing fetus continuously depletes nutritional stores of the mother. Hence the mother needs extra nutrition for replenishing her own body resources as well as provide for the baby. Good nutrition is mandatory for healthy mother and a healthy baby. Among the nutrients needed in pregnancy, protein plays a vital role.
Nutrition in pregnancy
It is scientifically proven that nutritional status of the pregnant woman has a pivotal role to play in the outcome of the pregnancy. Poor maternal nutrition has adverse affects on the fetal development and is an independent cause for low birth weight. Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk for infant deaths and developmental disabilities.
Pregnancy is a physiological state wherein the maternal body undergoes many changes in order to allow for the growth of the fetus and to prepare the mother for labor, delivery and lactation. Many of these changes increase the nutritional requirements of the mother to manifold. In the first trimester of pregnancy the growth of fetus is slow and hence not much additional nutrition is needed. However in the next two trimesters, the fetus grows rapidly, posing an increased demand on the mother’s body. The diet of pregnant woman should thus provide additional nutritional requirements.
A well-balanced diet high in fiber, proteins, vitamins and minerals help the mother to supply extra requirements for proper development of the fetus.
Protein requirement and pregnancy
Protein is the building block of human cells and therefore is indispensable for the developing fetus. As the fetal growth is rapid in second trimester, the mother requires additional proteins to meet the growing tissues needs. In the last three months of pregnancy, protein requirements increase slightly but protein digestion and assimilation are major problems encountered. Also, women generally do not typically consume as much proteins as men do. Therefore the protein intake should be increased to meet the needs of the mother and the baby. Proteins are also required for maintaining mother’s body for delivery and lactation.
Deficiency of proteins may cause maternal and fetal malnutrition. Proteins may prevent many pregnancy related complications. Current recommendations suggest a daily increase in protein of 10 grams more than the non-pregnant state for adult women.
Role of milk proteins
Milk proteins are important for the baby during and after pregnancy. Colostrum is the first milk produced after delivery. Colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins, which are active, large molecular weight proteins. Immunoglobulins serve various functions including immunity. The infant receives passive immunization through colostrum, later it can be produced by the baby. These immunoglobulins increase the host defense mechanism to various illnesses.
Milk proteins can also be obtained from whey and casein. Composition of whey and casein is near similar to the composition of breast milk. This makes it a prime choice as a key ingredient in a wide variety of infant formulas, including those for premature infants.
Whey is a by-product of cheese and casein manufacture. It contains approximately 20% of original milk proteins.
- Whey protein is the highest quality and best form of protein. It provides the body with the necessary amino acids that serve as building blocks muscle tissue.
- Whey protein is a naturally complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids required in the daily diet. It has the ideal combination of amino acids to help improve body composition.
- Whey protein is a soluble, easy to digest protein and is efficiently absorbed into the body.
- Whey protein (also known as "lactalbumin") constitutes 18% of cow milk and 67% of human milk protein (which are 82% & 33% casein, respectively) with a variety of growth factors. The proteins are immunoglobulins and have a significant role in immunological functions.
- Whey protein can also be a good choice for the infant nutrition when breast-feeding is not the option. In addition, whey protein is an excellent choice for the expectant mother who needs increased amounts of proteins.
Caseins are a family of phosphoproteins synthesized in the mammary gland. Casein is basically a milk protein and is considered the major fraction of milk protein.
- Caseins possess immune modulator activity and can influence gut motility. Its ingestion has an important effect to preserve activity and aid in absorption of other biologically active peptides.
- Casein forms a gel in the gut to slow the transit time of amino acids. This time-bound release effect may enhance absorption.
- Casein has very high natural glutamine content in peptide form. The peptide form enhances absorption due to the peptide transport systems in digestive tract.
Thus casein and whey proteins help greatly to meet the protein requirements during and after pregnancy. While selecting these protein supplements you should consult your physician regarding their use.
Founded in 2001, Protica, Inc. is a nutritional research firm with offices in Lafayette Hill and Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Protica manufactures capsulized foods, including Profect, a compact, hypoallergenic, ready-to-drink protein beverage containing zero carbohydrates and zero fat. Information on Protica is available at http://www.protica.com
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