Human cells take in less protein from plant-based ‘meat’ than from chicken: Study

Lab tests have shown that proteins in substitutes don’t break down into peptides as well as those from meats

Many people have now embraced the plant-based meat movement. Plants high in protein, such as soybeans, are common ingredients, but it’s been unclear how much of the nutrient makes it into human cells. Researchers in the US report that proteins in a model plant-based substitute were not as accessible to cells as those from meat. The team says this knowledge could eventually be used to develop more healthful products.

The researchers created a model meat alternative made of soy and wheat gluten with the extrusion process. When cut open, the material had long fibrous pieces inside, just like chicken. Cooked pieces of the substitute and chicken meat were then ground up and broken down with an enzyme that humans use to digest food. In vitro tests showed that meat-substitute peptides were less water-soluble than those from chicken, and they also were not absorbed as well by human cells.

With this new understanding, the researchers say the next step is to identify other ingredients that could help boost the peptide uptake of plant-based meat substitutes.

Image credit- shutterstock

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