Parameter Tuesday: TOTAL PROTEIN
Proteins are large molecules that play vital roles in all parts of your body. They provide your body with energy; they maintain normal acid-base balance; they take various forms such as enzymes, hormones, metabolites, immunoglobulins, and cytokines. The total protein test measures the levels of all proteins in your blood; in particular, it measures the levels of two proteins, albumin, and globulin.
Albumins are large proteins whose main function is to prevent fluid from leaking out of blood vessels and to transport fats, bilirubin, hormones, vitamins, or drugs around your body. Globulins are an important part of your immune system, fighting off viruses and infections and transporting nutrients. There are three main groups of globulins: alpha, beta, and gamma. The amount of total body protein in your body is usually very stable, and the level of albumins is a little higher than the level of globulins. However, a drop or an elevation of these can be a sign of disease or a medical condition.
Various medical conditions can cause high levels of total protein in your body or hyperproteinemia. However, it cannot be caused by a high-protein diet. The elevated total protein levels can be caused by dehydration, chronic inflammation, or liver or kidney disease. Certain cancers and bone marrow diseases, e.g., multiple myeloma, can cause an elevation of total proteins. People facing HIV, hepatitis C, or hepatitis B are also known to have high total protein.
Low total protein levels in your body, or hypoproteinemia, is usually a sign of liver or kidney disorder, bleeding, extensive burns, or malnutrition. People with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease tend to have low total protein levels due to malabsorption, meaning their body has trouble absorbing proteins properly.