Plant-based meat may lower some cardiovascular risk factors

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The researchers took into account the varying levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide

Swapping out red meat for plant-based meat alternatives can lower some cardiovascular risk factors, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford Medicine, UD.

The small study was funded by an unrestricted gift from Beyond Meat, a company which makes plant-based meat alternatives. The researchers used products from the company to compare the health effects of meat with plant-based alternatives. Beyond Meat was not involved in designing or conducting the study and did not participate in data analysis.

The team conducted a study that enrolled 36 participants for 16 weeks of dietary experimentation. Researchers designed it as a crossover study, meaning participants acted as their own controls.

For eight weeks, half of the participants ate the plant-based diet, while the other half ate the meat-based diet consisting of primarily red meat, although some participants ate a small amount of chicken. Then they switched. Regardless of which diet participants were on, both groups had on average two servings of meat or plant-based alternatives per day, carefully tracking their meals in journals and working with members of the team to record their eating habits.

The researchers took into account the varying levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which has been proved to be associated with cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis.

The researchers observed that participants who ate the red-meat diet during the first eight-week phase had an increase in TMAO, while those who ate the plant-based diet first did not. But something peculiar happened when the groups switched diets. Those who transitioned from meat to plant had a decrease in TMAO levels, which was expected. Those who switched from plant to meat, however, did not see an increase in TMAO.

The research team hopes to continue studying the relationship between health and plant-based meat alternatives, particularly as it pertains to changes in the microbiome. The team is also interested in expanding this research into diet patterns overall.

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