FAO: meat burger, better protein quality

The protein quality of animal-based meat burgers is better than that of plant-based “veg burgers”. The DIAAS method developed by FAO confirms this.

A study revealed this by analysing and comparing the DIAAS score of the two types of burgers to evaluate the protein quality. DIAAS stands for “Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score”. It is a method to measure the digestibility and quality of proteins based on a formula that considers the essential amino acids that our body must necessarily obtain from food. The score is expressed in values that may be less than or greater than 100. A DIAAS over 100 indicates that the protein has a very high digestibility and quality, and it is a good protein complement for those with a lower quality instead.

The study found that the DIAAS score is greater in beef and pork burgers than in soy-based and pea-based veggies burgers of the Impossible™ and Beyond Meat® brands. In other words, there’s a clear qualitative superiority of animal proteins over plant proteins. Although plant-based burgers promise proteins comparable to meat proteins, the concentration and digestibility of essential amino acids are very different among protein sources.

FAO developed the DIAAS method to have a more accurate tool for developing effective dietary plans. Both beef and pork burgers, served without a bun, scored over 100, proving “excellent” protein sources. The pea-based Beyond Burger scored 83, so a “good” source, but only for adults, while along with the soy-based Impossible Burger, there were no protein sources suitable for children under the age of 3.

The #ProteinQuality of #AnimalBased #MeatBurgers is better than that of #PlantBased #VegBurgers. The #DIAAS method (Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score) developed by #FAO confirms this. Click To Tweet

Since burgers are typically eaten with a bun, researchers have also examined the protein quality when served together. The study confirmed that cereals of the bun offer a low protein quality, lowering the values of DIAAS when the burger is wholly consumed. However, this decrease is evident in veg burgers only, while traditional meat burgers continue to have DIAAS values equal to or greater than 100, despite the presence of the bun. So, the need for essential amino acids is also met by the combinations of beef, pork and the bun.

“We have already observed that animal proteins have higher DIAAS values than plant proteins, and it occurred in this experiment as well,” Hans H. Stein comments, professor at the Department of Animal Science and Division of Nutritional Sciences in Illinois, co-author of the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition: “A greater DIAAS value was obtained in the combination of pork or beef burger and the bun, with values of 107 and 105 respectively, while Impossible Burger recorded a DIAAS value of 86 when consumed with the bun. This means that you have to eat 15% more in the combination of Impossible Burger and the bun to get the same amount of essential amino acids as pork or beef burgers”.

“And eating more also means more calories,” Mahesh Narayanan Nair adds, professor at Colorado State University and co-author of the publication: “It is mainly children, adolescents, breastfeeding women and elderly people who are at risk of not receiving enough amino acids,” Stein continues: “The results of this experiment, together with the previous data, demonstrate the importance of introducing animal proteins in diets to provide sufficient amounts of essential digestible amino acids to these populations”.

Although #PlantBased #burgers promise #proteins comparable to #meat proteins, the concentration and digestibility of essential amino acids are very different among #ProteinSources. Click To Tweet

“This is also very important in developing countries with poor access to animal proteins, especially children. In some countries, the majority of children lack amino acids. This is extremely serious because if children do not receive enough amino acids, their brain development is compromised. It is essential to design strategies to obtain high-quality proteins in children’s nutrition“, the author concludes.

Agronomist, nutritional consultant and scientific writer, author and co-author of 11 scientific publications and numerous articles on human nutrition and its impact on health and environment. In 2010 she received the title of Doctor Europaeus and PhD in Animal Production, Health and Food Hygiene in countries with a Mediterranean climate.