“The goal of our study was to use untargeted metabolomics to provide an in‑depth comparison of the metabolite profiles a popular plant‑based meat alternative and grass‑fed ground beef matched for serving size (113g) and fat content (14g),” the researchers wrote. “Despite apparent similarities based on Nutrition Facts panels, our metabolomics analysis found that metabolite abundances between the plant‑based meat alternative and grass‑fed ground beef differed by 90% (171 out of 190 profiled metabolites).”
The team discovered 22 metabolites were found only in beef, while 51 metabolites were found in greater quantities. “Nutrients such as docosahexaenoic acid (ω‑3), niacinamide (vitamin B3), glucosamine, hydroxyproline and the anti‑oxidants allantoin, anserine, cysteamine, spermine, and squalene were amongst those only found in beef,” they wrote.
On the other hand, 31 metabolites were found only in the plant-based products, while 67 were found in greater quantities. Ascorbate (vitamin C), phytosterols and several phenolic anti‑oxidants such as loganin, sulfurol, syringic acid, tyrosol, and vanillic acid were among those found only in the plant‑based meat alternative.
“Large differences in metabolites within various nutrient classes (e.g., amino acids, dipeptides, vitamins, phenols, tocopherols, and fatty acids) with physiological, anti‑inflammatory, and/or immunomodulatory roles indicate that these products should not be viewed as truly nutritionally interchangeable, but could be viewed as complementary in terms of provided nutrients. The new information we provide is important for making informed decisions by consumers and health professionals. It cannot be determined from our data if either source is healthier to consume,” the scientists wrote.
“But that’s not to say that one is better than the other,” van Vliet, a self-described omnivore who enjoys a plant-heavy diet but also eats meat, told Duke Today. “Plant and animal foods can be complementary, because they provide different nutrients.”
He said more research is needed to determine whether there are short-term or long-term effects of the presence or absence of particular metabolites in meat and plant-based meat alternatives.
You can read the full study, which was published Tuesday on Nature.com, here.
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