Not a day seems to go by without the headlines or marketing companies online or on TV promoting plant-based style meat. But researchers from Duke University in America have carried out a first of its kind study that indicates plant-based meat protein may not actually be the same nutritionally as real meat, despite the clever marketing.
The research team from Duke took 18 plant-based samples for the study, and 18 real meat samples. The plant-based food samples were widely known plant based meat alternative samples, and the real meat samples were taken from grass-fed beef options supplied by a ranch in Idaho, America.
When analysing each sample, the research team measured the number of metabolites – which are small molecules that make up the nutrients in food.
The team discovered that beef contains 22 metabolites that the plant-based substitutes do not have, whilst the plant-based meal alternatives contained 31 metabolites that meat did not include.
The major differences were from:
- amino acids,
- types of saturated fatty acids,
- types of unsaturated fatty acids.
This study revealed, however, that certain metabolites that are actually vital for human health were either found exclusively in beef, or in greater amounts such as:
- DHA (omega 3 fatty acid).
Stephan van Vliet, a postdoctoral researcher at the Duke Molecular Physiology department, gave a statement concluding the results and what they mean:
“These nutrients are important for our brain and other organs including our muscles. But some people on vegan diets (no animal products), can live healthy lives – that’s very clear.
To consumers reading nutritional labels, they may appear nutritionally interchangeable, but if you peek behind the curtain using metabolomics and look at expanded nutritional profiles, we found that there are large differences between meat and a plant-based meat alternative.”
“Consumers should know real meat and alternative meat products are not nutritionally interchangeable,” Van Vilet further noted.
No matter what type of diet you choose to eat, it can pay off to see a nutritional therapist to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to thrive; whether you eat real meat or plant-based meat – deficiencies can occur in both types of diets. Addressing them earlier on can also prevent longterm health consequences.