Vegetable “meat” protein may be less well absorbed by the body than chicken breast protein

Vegetable “meat” protein may be less well absorbed by the body than chicken breast protein

The protein found in meat alternatives made from wheat and soy may be less well absorbed by the small intestine into the bloodstream than the protein in chicken breasts.


June 22, 2022

In a laboratory experiment, the proteins of a meat substitute (left) were less absorbed by the intestinal cells than the proteins of the chicken breast (right).

In a laboratory experiment, the proteins of a meat substitute (left) were not absorbed by the intestinal cells, as well as the proteins of the chicken breast (right).

Adapted from Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2022

Dietary protein from plant-based meat alternatives may not be as well absorbed as chicken breast protein.

“This work opens a door to the nutritional properties of herbal meat alternatives,” say Da Chen and Osvaldo Campanella, who led the research at Ohio State University. Chen is now based at the University of Idaho.

In their lab experiment, Chen, Campanella, and their colleagues grew a layer of human intestinal cells on scaffolding that divided several plates into two chambers. They then used enzymes from the stomach and small intestine to digest an alternative to herbal meat and a cooked chicken breast, before adding each digested product to a quarter of each dish.

The team then measured the amount of protein fragments (or peptides) that passed through the layer of intestinal cells to reach the opposite chamber of each dish, which represents the absorption of protein through the intestine. intestine.

Within four hours of being added to the dish, which is the longest typical transit time for food in the small intestine, approximately 2% less protein from the vegetable meat alternative had been transferred through. of intestinal cells, compared to chicken protein. pit. Although a small percentage difference, the statistical analysis suggests that this result was not a coincidence.

Therefore, eating meat alternatives can cause less protein to be absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. The researchers did not assess whether this reduction in absorption leads to protein deficiency.

In the second part of the experiment, the team analyzed the peptides in the digested food, finding that the protein fragments in the chicken breast are smaller and more soluble in water than the alternative peptides in the meat.

“Peptides with smaller and larger sizes have been shown [solubility] can be transferred more easily [these gut] cells, “Campanella and Chen say.

However, the lab model is a very simplified version of the gut that does not have the mucus lining that is in the body, they say.

“In the gut, the peptides need to pass through a layer of mucus … which serves as a filter … before they reach the cells of the intestinal epithelium. [We tested protein absorption] regardless of the mucus layer, “the couple said.

Protein absorption may also differ in the large intestine, where food may remain for up to 24 hours, a period of time that was not evaluated in the experiment.

In addition, the protein uptake of vegetable meat and other meat alternatives beyond chicken breast depends on its composition and processing of individual proteins.

Despite its results, the team argues that herbal meat alternatives are probably a good source of protein.

“Although herbal meat alternatives had fewer absorbed peptides, they still provide a good amino acid profile and could be a suitable supplement for a well-balanced diet,” Campanella and Chen say.

Researchers are now working to improve the absorbed nutrition of plant-based meat alternatives.

“Plant-based foods need to be carefully designed to ensure that they have similar or better nutritional profiles than those of animal origin,” says David Julian McClements of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Magazine reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry DOI:

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