May 29, 2024

Eating fake meat offers no clear benefit for heart health

There must be ‘improvements’ to plant-based meat products to justify perceptions that they are healthier alternatives, experts have said.

It follows an experiment which found that there is no real benefit to eating fake meat when it comes to heart health.

Researchers also found that people who consumed these ultra-processed products appeared to have worse blood pressure than those who ate meat.

It has led experts to call for a ‘re-evaluation’ of meat alternatives for the future, as researchers questioned the ‘health halo’ around fake meat.

Study co-author, Dr Sumanto Haldar, a nutrition science lecturer at Bournemouth University said: “At present, producing these plant based meat alternatives often involves a substantial amount of processing.

“The end products can be high in salt, saturated fat and additives in order to match the taste and texture of real meat products.

“It is clear there are still a lot of opportunities for improvements in plant-based meat analogues in the market in order to justify perceptions of superior health benefits of these products.

“As it stands, the plant-based meat alternatives currently available do not offer same health advantages as a traditional plant-based diet, generally consisting of whole foods such as whole grains, legumes and a plethora of fruits and vegetables.

“This gives an impetus for the food industry to re-evaluate the development of the next generation of meat alternative products, so that they not only taste good, but also have improved nutritional attributes and are more affordable for the entire population.”

The study saw 82 people at risk of type 2 diabetes divided into two groups for eight weeks. Half followed a plant-based diet while the other half were given meat.

The vegan group consumed ultra-processed items from brands including Impossible Beef, Omni Foods, the Vegetarian Butcher, Beyond Meat and The Vegetarian Butcher.

The meat-eating group were given beef and pork mince, chicken breasts, burger patties, sausages and chicken nuggets as part of their diet.

Researchers assessed the participants’ cardiometabolic health before and after the study, and reported: “Among the classical cardiovascular disease risk factors, no clear effects were observed between the animal-based meat diet and plant-based meat groups.”

In terms of sodium intake, levels fell among the meat eaters but spiked at 42.5% among those eating the meat alternatives.

The researchers concluded: “These findings suggest that despite the well-documented health benefits of traditional plant-based diets, their health benefits should not be conflated with plant-based meat diets.”

While interest in veganism has grown substantially, several manufacturers of plant-based meat substitutes have reported a drop in sales more recently.

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