Health & Wellbeing

Study confirms that beef and its substitutes differ nutritionally

Study confirms that beef and i...
Patties made of a plant-based beef substitute were found to contain nutrients not present in beef – but beef patties were also found to contain nutrients not present in the substitute
Patties made of a plant-based beef substitute were found to contain nutrients not present in beef – but beef patties were also found to contain nutrients not present in the substitute
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Patties made of a plant-based beef substitute were found to contain nutrients not present in beef – but beef patties were also found to contain nutrients not present in the substitute
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Patties made of a plant-based beef substitute were found to contain nutrients not present in beef – but beef patties were also found to contain nutrients not present in the substitute

Given how meat-like some plant-based meat substitutes have become, it's understandable that many people are considering simply switching over to them. According to new research, however, the two food types are far from being nutritionally identical.

For the study, scientists from North Carolina's Duke University compared 18 samples of grass-fed ground beef to 18 samples of "a popular plant-based meat alternative." The latter's nutritional label listed 13 items – namely certain proteins, fats and vitamins – which are also abundant in meat.

That said, the researchers were specifically looking at the type and amount of metabolites that were present in each sample. Metabolites are substances produced via the regulatory processes in an organism's cells, and the consumption of certain ones has been linked to various health benefits.

When 36 cooked patties were compared – 18 made of beef, and 18 made of the substitute – it was found that out of 190 measured metabolites, concentrations of 171 differed considerably between the two foods. In fact, the beef patties contained 22 metabolites that the substitute did not, while the substitute patties contained 31 metabolites that weren't present in the beef.

It is important for consumers to understand that these products should not be viewed as nutritionally interchangeable, but that’s not to say that one is better than the other

Among the metabolites found in the beef were nutrients such as creatine, spermine, anserine, cysteamine, glucosamine, squalene and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. According to the scientists, these "have potentially important physiological, anti-inflammatory, and or immunomodulatory roles."

The substitute patties, meanwhile, were rich in phytosterols and phenols. Among other things, these metabolites are known to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and have an antioxidant effect.

"We found that there are large differences between meat and a plant-based meat alternative," says the lead scientist, postdoctoral researcher Stephan van Vliet. "It is important for consumers to understand that these products should not be viewed as nutritionally interchangeable, but that’s not to say that one is better than the other."

The study is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Duke University

12 comments
12 comments
idearat
I've been on the side of not allowing alternative products to be called meat, chicken, beef, ham, or other words that are similar. Tofurky is cool, people are not likely to think it's a heritage breed.
This study is great. If a plant alternative looked and tasted *exactly* like the real animal product but is not nutritionally identical, then calling it one of the above things is not good. A steak doesn't need an ingredient list. Every alternative product does. Do you get the same iron, zinc, niacin, B12?
ES
As a scientist, I issue a critical PSA here: *Always skip to the end of a published study and check the competing interests.* Gee whiz, look at that! This study’s first author received grants from the North Dakota Beef Association. Take it with a grain of salt. In no way, shape or form, is beef “anti-inflammatory” or in any way health-promoting. That’s what the ND Beef folks want you to believe, so they paid for this study. Big Tobacco pulled the same stunt for years. Eat whole plant foods. They don’t cause disease. Animal products do (they also destroy the environment). Disappointed in you for reporting this misleading study, New Atlas.
Eddy
Can we have an independent definitive study please with a definite conclusion, and long term deficiencies, benefits or not for switching and not a sitting on the fence ramble.
c2cam
@ES - thanks for pointing that out!
ADVENTUREMUFFINffin
ES, spot on! You can smell the bias in this report-you found the source. Thank you. I also noted the "potentially important physiological, anti-inflammatory, and or immunomodulatory roles." from beef vs the "known to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and have an antioxidant effect" from the alternative beef product. I would go with the known vs the potentially important as a key indicator that the beef industry is at a loss for nutritional benefits.

Benefits of beef alternatives are extensive, including CO2 reduction, health benefits, including weight and cancer risk reduction, and ecological resource reductions.
Scientific facts regarding the nutritional value of plant based protein can be found here : https://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-based-protein-are-pea-and-soy-protein-isolates-harmful/
BlueOak
@ES, Say it isn’t so - you’re claiming Duke Molecular Physiology Institute and Duke University Medical Center have been corrupted by money?

(The entire University system has been corrupted by financing. The financials of universities are broken beyond repair. The sooner we admit it, the better.)
Arandor
It only took half the article before I thought, "Hmm, looks like the beef industry has sponsored a study to strike back at plant-based alternatives." Look to the end of the journal article and you'll see the study received "a grant from the North Dakota Beef Association". This study doesn't tell us anything we did not already know. It just generates some headlines saying meat isn't all bad.
doug70
Good point ES. Follow the money.
EarnestTBass
The comment about the money seems more politically motivated, or a knee jerk reaction at best after further investigation.

I google search the author and pulled additional studies posted.
One other study where this the grant is identified as a conflict of interest in that study.
(posted here:https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.00128/full?fbclid=IwAR0u1mXY9YSa6H_QR-p7nRLSsV91woBWwCnJEhHs_qqOViNGFIF5_X6E970 )

The conclusion by the evil meat researchers were this:

Some people may do better with meat, some better with plants.
Overall - mixing the two is probably the best way to go for most.
Catweazle
If I want vegetable nutrients and metabolites and metabolites I'll eat real, unprocessed vegetables, not the highly modified messed-around-with output of some chemical plant somewhere.
The Veggies can have my locally-reared grass-fed beef, mutton, free range chicken and pork from my local butcher when they tear them from my cold, dead hand.
I thought we were supposed to be cutting back on heavily processed "plastic" foods, not eating them in preference to the natural product.
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