June 30, 2022

Study finds plant-based protein not as nutritious as real meat

Study finds plant-based protein not as nutritious as real meat 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

A new study by researchers at Ohio State University found that human cells currently do not absorb the same level of nutrients from plant-based protein as they do from meat from animals. While plant-based proteins have risen in popularity, this study shines a light on how the body reacts differently when compared to meat. With this discovery, the researchers say the next step is to identify other ingredients that could help boost the peptide uptake of plant-based meat substitutes.

There are now many plant-based fake meat alternatives on the market. To mimic the look and texture of real meat, plants are dehydrated into a powder and mixed with seasonings. Then, the mixtures are typically heated, moistened, and processed through an extruder. One selling point to consumers is that these fake meat products are often thought of as being more healthful than animal meats because the plants used to make them are high in protein and low in undesirable fats. However, this study proves the opposite. 

Researchers compared the digestion of meat analogs to meat from animals and found that the proteins from plant-based meat do not break down into peptides within cells as effectively as their animal-based counterparts. To test this, the authors of the study created a meat alternative from soy and wheat gluten that mimicked the consistency of chicken and treated the analog with an enzyme humans use to digest food. In-vitro tests then showed that meat- substitute peptides were less water-soluble than those sourced from actual chicken and were not absorbed as effectively by human cells. 

This research is probably not surprising to many in the animal science community. Previous research from the Journal of Nutrition has shown plant proteins may compromise bone health.