Protein was first discovered by a Swedish chemist Jacob Berzelius as a class of biological molecules in 1838. Because of the role it played in sustaining life, Berzelius named it ‘Protos’ which in Greek means “primary importance”. After this many subsequent experiments were carried on protein to uncover its secrets making it one of the most researched molecules in bio-chemistry.
How the earliest standards of daily protein requirement were set?
One of the first researchers who defined the daily protein requirement was Dr. Cart Voit (1831-1908). He studied laborers who were working extensively and were consuming about 3100 calories every day. According to his research. their daily protein requirement came to about 118 gm every day, an intake that was sufficient to ensure proper growth and repair of the body.
Of course his results didn’t hold for much long.
The first experiment on rats
Lafayette B. Mendel and Thomas B. Osborne carried a revolutionary study in 1914 which connected protein intake with the growth of the animal body. They carried the experiment on two sections of rats, one which was supplied with animal sources of protein and the other with vegetables sources of protein. After carrying their analysis for a certain period of time they inferred that the rats which were given animal sources of protein grew better than those who were given plant sources of protein. As animal sources contain more protein (also essential amino acids) than vegetables sources, they were able to prove that protein is essential for the growth, repair and maintenance of the body.