Protein absorption: chicken wins over plant-based products

Plant-based fake “meat” proteins are not absorbed by human intestinal cells like natural meat. A study confirmed that by comparing chicken meat and plant-based hyper-processed products.

Plant-based meat substitutes are increasingly popular among people who want to embrace an entirely plant-based diet. However, many studies clearly show that these fake products cannot replace the original products they try to imitate from a nutritional perspective and are neither healthy nor more sustainable for the environment. A new study aims to evaluate the degree of absorption of proteins in the intestine, to determine whether the nutritional power is the same.

The plant proteins of a surrogate that is supposed to replace chicken were then analysed and compared with natural chicken proteins. It has been shown that despite the apparent similarities in fibrous appearance, protein derived from the plant-based substitute is not easily absorbed by human intestinal cells, as is the case with natural chicken proteins.

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry of ACS, is a further confirmation that, despite the protein content of these products, typically composed of legumes such as soybeans, peas or wheat gluten, their proteins aren’t as accessible as those of real meat.

The #PlantBased #MeatSubstitutes are subjected to extreme #IndustrialTreatments, which ruin the primary #ingredients, making them lose their #NutritionalValue. Click To Tweet

It is already known that plant proteins are lower than animal proteins in absorption, completeness of essential amino acids and nutritional power, and in these hyper-processed vegan products are even less. To imitate the appearance and texture of meat, plant-based substitutes undergo harsh industrial treatments, which spoil the authentic ingredients, losing their nutritional value. Vegetables are dehydrated in powder and mixed with a series of seasonings and additives, of which you can read the long list on the label. Hence, mixtures are typically heated, moistened, processed through an extruder, and subjected to high pressure and temperature.

Several studies have shown that these are hyper-processed products, so their consumption is not suitable for health, as people are told instead by aggressive marketing campaigns to promote their sales. Specifically, in this study, researchers assessed the bioavailability of proteins of both products. By the way, the physicochemical properties, the in vitro digestion and the cellular absorption of the peptides released by the fake meat made of soy and wheat gluten were compared with those of the real chicken meat.

The #proteins of #PlantBased #HyperProcessed #MeatSubstitutes are not absorbed by human intestinal cells like #Chicken #Meat, a new study reveals. Click To Tweet

Both pieces were cooked, ground and digested by a human digestive enzyme. Laboratory tests have shown that the proteins of these plant substitutes are not divided into peptides in the same way as meat and have fewer essential and non-essential amino acids. In vitro tests have also shown that plant-based fake meat peptides are less soluble in water than chicken peptides and cannot be easily absorbed by human intestinal cells.

Plant-based meat substitutes cannot provide equivalent nutrition to that provided by genuine meat products. Therefore, the terms “substitutes” or “analogues” so used today to indicate them should be avoided. Just as the Meat Sounding should be banned, calling them using names that recall the real meat, deceiving the consumer who believes in buying an equivalent and healthier product. We hope that all these advances made by science to show that products are not interchangeable will also make political progress to protect transparency and consumer health.


The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.