Hypoproteinemia: Causes and Treatment

In humans, hypoproteinemia occurs when there are insufficient amounts of certain amino acids (proteins) in the body. These deficiencies may occur due to illness or from diet.

For example, if someone has a deficiency of methionine, they will not make enough cysteine which is needed for proper DNA synthesis. If someone has a deficiency of lysine, they will not make enough arginine which is needed for proper muscle contraction.

There are many different causes of hypoproteinemia including:

Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12, folate, zinc, iron, magnesium and others.

Exercise training. Exercise increases the production of growth hormone and other hormones that stimulate protein synthesis.

Drug use. Drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and others increase the levels of epinephrine in the blood stream which stimulates protein synthesis.

Diabetes mellitus. Diabetes affects how much insulin is produced in the pancreas.

Insulin helps move glucose into cells where it’s used for energy or stored as fat. With not enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood and doesn’t reach body cells. As a result, your cells don’t receive the nutrients they need, including amino acids that are necessary for protein synthesis.

Skin Disorders. Skin disorders such as vitiligo affect how much melanin your skin produces.

If you don’t have enough melanin, your skin will lose its natural color. Since skin color is partially due to the amount of melanin produced in your skin, skin color can change even if the number of melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) are unchanged.

Kidney failure. When your kidneys don’t work properly, they can’t remove waste products from your blood.

One of these waste products is urea which is normally metabolized in the liver and excreted by the kidney. If urea builds up in the blood, your liver receives too many unnecessary instructions to break down protein. Your liver responds to this by removing certain amino acids from your blood stream before they reach their final destination.

Hemochromatosis. A buildup of iron in your blood can also cause hypoproteinemia as the body tries to store excess iron.

Hypoproteinemia is typically treated by replacing lost electrolytes, dietary changes and medication as necessary. For example, someone with hypoproteinemia caused by skin disorders, kidney failure or hemochromatosis will require different treatments than someone with nutritional deficiencies.

Often, hypoproteinemia is temporary and resolves on its own. In these cases, treatment involves managing symptoms until they pass.

For example, someone with a short term shortage of zinc or vitamin B12 will be given supplements to take at home until their body replenishes its stores of these nutrients.

Sources & references used in this article:

Effect of hypoproteinemia on wound disruption by WD Thompson, IS Ravdin, IL Frank – Archives of Surgery, 1938 – jamanetwork.com

The mechanism of hypoproteinemia associated with giant hypertrophy of the gastric mucosa by Y Citrin, K Sterling, JA Halsted – New England Journal of …, 1957 – Mass Medical Soc

Hypoproteinemia predicts acute respiratory distress syndrome development, weight gain, and death in patients with sepsis by RJ Mangialardi, GS Martin, GR Bernard… – Critical care …, 2000 – journals.lww.com

Hypoproteinemia, strong-ion difference, and acid-base status in critically ill patients by P Wilkes – Journal of Applied Physiology, 1998 – journals.physiology.org

Hypoproteinemia antedating intestinal lesions, and possibly due to excessive serum protein loss into the intestine by H Holman, WF Nickel, MH Sleisenger – The American journal of …, 1959 – amjmed.com

The mechanism of hypoproteinemia in patients with regional enteritis and ulcerative colitis by JL Steinfeld, JD Davidson, RS Gordon Jr… – The American Journal of …, 1960 – Elsevier

Depression of gamma globulin in hypoproteinemia due to malnutrition by EG Krebs – Translational Research, 1946 – translationalres.com