Protein from plant-based meats may not be well absorbed

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A new study finds that plant-based meat alternatives can be good sources of protein, but they may not be easy to absorb. Sophia Hussein / Stocksy
  • The researchers compared protein absorption between plant-based meat and chicken.
  • Protein absorption was higher in chicken than in vegetable meat.
  • The researchers concluded that the nutritional value of plant-based meat could be improved by adjusting the composition and production conditions.

In recent years, vegetarian meats have become more popular as a way to “enjoy the taste of meat” without harming animals or the environment.

Although meat of plant origin is low in fat and cholesterol Levels may help scale down obesity and cardiovascular disease risk, studies Turns out it may be less digestible than animal-derived meat.

Knowing more about how plant proteins are digested can help assess their usefulness as a major source of dietary protein.

Recently, researchers compared the absorption of protein from plant-based meats with chicken meat. They found that plant protein was absorbed less during in vitro digestion than protein from chicken.

The study was published in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

For the study, researchers created vegetarian “chicken” meat from concentrated soybean and wheat gluten. The final product has a protein content of 24.2%.

The vegetable meat was then cooked along with chicken meat, ground to simulate the chewing process, and passed through a 2.36 mm sieve to avoid the effect of sample size on the digestibility of the two samples.

The resulting ‘meat lumps’ were then subjected to various in vitro tests to model protein uptake during digestion.

From these tests, the researchers found that the water solubility of plant meat gradually increased during in vitro digestion, reaching about 8% after gastric digestion and then 14% at the end of intestinal digestion.

However, they found that chicken peptides were always more soluble in water than plant peptides.

Furthermore, they note that of the 110 peptides identified in plant meats, about 50% remained after digestion.

Meanwhile, of the more than 500 peptides identified in chicken meat, only 15% remained after digestion. They wrote that this indicates that the peptides in chicken are more easily absorbed than those in plant sources.

When asked what might explain why human cells absorb less protein from plant-based meats than from chicken, Dr.. Da Chensaid a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University and author of the study Today’s medical news:

Proteins undergo digestion before they are absorbed by human intestinal epithelial cells. After digestion, proteins essentially become peptides. The size and polarity of the peptides have been reported to be closely related to their uptake.”

“In our study, the peptides produced from the digestion of plant-based meats were greater [and less water soluble]This makes it pass through the epithelial cells more slowly compared to chicken, which leads to a lower efficiency of uptake.

Professor VM (Pala) BalsubramaniamAgreed, of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Ohio State University, who was not involved in the study.

“I agree with the author’s note on this. As they note, chicken meat proteins have shown a better swelling capacity, which helps to boost digestive enzymes. Soybean proteins contain some anti-nutritional factors (such as phytates and tannins) which may limit protein hydrolysis [water solubility],” Tell MNT.

“In addition, the structural differences between plant and animal foods may also influence how proteins are released,” he added.

David Julian McClementsThe Distinguished Professor in the University of Massachusetts Department of Food Science, who was also not involved in the study, noted that digestion and absorption depend on several factors, including:

  • Protein type
  • protein denaturation
  • protein accumulation
  • Food Matrix Effects
  • Anti-Nutrition Factors
  • Processing and cooking methods

Thus, he said, the results of this study may not apply to all comparisons of plant-based meat.

An example is that wheat gluten is Not It is soluble in water and has stiffer structures than soy and chicken proteins, making it less digestible. Because the plan-based meat in this study was 28% wheat, the current findings may not apply to plant-based meats made only from soybeans.

The authors concluded that the nutritional value of plant meats could be improved by adjusting the composition and production conditions.

“When evaluating the quality of plant-based meats, not only their texture but also the protein feed It should be taken into account,” Dr. Da Chen said MNT.

The results of the study began to provide some insights into how different plant and animal proteins might affect human health. This will enable food manufacturers to understand the advantages and limitations of different food processing technologies and ingredients. “
Professor Palsubramaniam

Dr. Chen also emphasized that vegetarian meats are still vital sources of protein.

For consumers, vegetarian meat will still provide valuable protein nutrition as it has a good amino acid profile. He said that whether consumers should eat more plant-based meats in order to obtain equivalent nutrition is outside the scope of the current study because it depends on daily intake of proteins, which has not been done.”

When asked about the limitations of the study, Dr. Chen said, “We only used soy/wheat proteins as the main source of protein to produce a meat analog, for those made with other proteins or different formulations, results can be different.”

“Our study [also] It is only used for in vitro digestion, and some differences may appear compared to in vivo digestion. future [studies] More focus should be placed on clinical trials.”

However, Dr. pointed out. “If we were to replace animal foods with plant-based alternatives, we would not want to have any adverse effects on human nutrition and health,” he said.

He concluded, “As a result, it is important to design plant foods to have similar or better nutritional characteristics and absorption/digestion behavior as animal foods that were designed to replace them.”