Replacing meat for plant-based protein may help lower cardiovascular risk, according to one study
A small study from Stanford University School of Medicine comparing the effects of swapping red meat for vegetable protein found that it may lower some cardiovascular risk factors.
The study, called SWAP-MEAT (The Study of Appetite for Plant-Based Foods – Meat Alternatives Study) was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and included participants who switched between a plant-based alternative meat diet – using Beyond Meat products – – and animal meat diet for 8-week phases.
The randomized crossover study in one location enrolled 36 participants who were instructed to consume two or more servings of vegetable protein per day for 8 weeks. Then they switched and ate animal meat for another 8 week period. Comparisons were then made between the two phases of the diets. Participants were told that all other foods and beverages should be kept as similar as possible between the two phases, according to the study.
The study, funded by an unconditional gift from Beyond Meat, which makes plant-based meat alternatives, used products from the company to compare the health effects of meat to plant-based alternatives. The company was not involved in actually conducting the study. To eliminate bias across the board, the researchers worked with a third party, the Quantitative Sciences Unit, to analyze the data once all participants had finished their 16-week diet.
The researchers found that the group that ate the red meat diet during the first eight-week period had increases in TMAO levels (a substance produced during digestion and metabolism and, in some studies, at a higher risk of cardiac disease) Cardiovascular disease) Those who ate the plant-based diet first did not. One notable finding when they changed their diets was that those who switched from meat to plant had less TMAO, but those who switched from plant to meat saw no increase in TMAO, according to the university press release.
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“It was pretty shocking; We hypothesized that it doesn't matter what order the diets are in, ”said Christopher Gardner, PhD, professor of medicine at Stanford Prevention Research Center, in the press release. It is said that types of bacteria are responsible for the first step in the formation of TMAO in the intestines, and it is believed that these bacteria thrive in people whose diet includes red meat.
"For the participants who first had a plant-based diet that did not eat meat, we basically turned them into vegetarians and in doing so, possibly inadvertently compromised their ability to make TMAO," explained Gardner.
However, Gardner also cautioned that more research is needed into the relationship between TMAO and potential cardiovascular risk, saying, "At this point in time, we cannot be certain that TMAO is a causal risk factor or just an association."
In addition to the effect on TMAO levels, the plant-based alternative diet also showed other health benefits. An average weight loss of 2 pounds was observed during the plant-based diet phase, and participants' LDL cholesterol levels dropped an average of 10 milligrams per deciliter. It is also possible that other factors contributed to the weight loss, such as: B. Exercise or daily basic exercise.
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"The modest weight loss seen when participants replaced the plant-based meat in place of the red meat is an unexpected finding as this was not a weight loss study," said Anthony Crimarco, PhD, who also participated in the study , press release cited in the study. "I think this shows the importance of nutritional quality."
Gardner hopes to further investigate the relationship between health and plant-based meat alternatives, particularly in terms of changes in the microbiome, and said he might next look at alternative dairy products.