The researchers analysed the levels of protein that were absorbed while eating chicken vs plant-based foods.
The chicken meat had a greater rate of protein absorption compared to the plant-based options.
The findings of the study led the researchers to the conclusion that formulation and manufacturing circumstances may be modified to increase the nutritional content of plant-based meats.
In recent years, plant-based meats have grown more prevalent as a method to “enjoy the flavour of meat” without hurting animals or the environment. One of the main motivations for this trend is to “enjoy the taste of meat.”
Studies have shown that plant-based meats may be less digestible than meats generated from animals. This is despite the fact that plant-based meats having lower levels of fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
It could be helpful to evaluate the viability of plant-based proteins as a primary source of dietary protein if we had a better understanding of how they are digested.
Recent studies have examined the levels of protein absorbed by the body from chicken and plant-based sources of meat. During the in-vitro digestion procedure, they discovered that protein derived from plants was digested and absorbed at a lower rate than protein derived from chicken.
The findings of the research were presented in a paper that was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
a diet centred on plants instead of chicken
As part of the research project, the scientists developed a plant-based substitute for chicken flesh by combining soybean concentrate with wheat gluten. The amount of protein that was included in the finished product was 24.2%.
The plant-based meat was then cooked alongside chicken meat, pulverised to replicate the chewing process, and passed through a sieve with a 2.36 mm opening so order to eliminate sample size-induced effects on digestion for the two samples.
Following the formation of the’meat clumps,’ many in vitro tests were performed to simulate the process of protein absorption that occurs during digestion.
The researchers observed that the water solubility of plant-based meats steadily rose throughout in vitro digestion, reaching around 8 percent after stomach digestion and subsequently 14 percent at the conclusion of intestinal digestion. These findings were derived from the experiments that were performed.
They discovered, however, that peptides derived from chicken were almost always more water-soluble than peptides derived from plants.
In addition to this, scientists found that around half of the 110 peptides that were found in the plant-based meat were still present after the digestive process was completed.
However, following digestion, just 15% of the more than 500 different peptides that were found in chicken flesh were found to be present. According to what they said, this demonstrated that the peptides found in chicken are more easily absorbed than those found in sources derived from plants.
Mechanisms under the surface
Dr. Da Chen, a post-doctoral researcher at Ohio State University and the author of the study, provided the following response in an interview with Medical News Today when asked what would explain why human cells absorb less protein from plant-based foods than chicken:
Before the epithelial cells of the human intestine can absorb proteins, they must first undergo the process of digestion. Peptides are mostly what are left behind from the digestion of proteins. It has been found that the size of peptides and their polarity have a tight association with how well they are absorbed.
According to his explanation, “in our study, peptides formed from the digestion of plant-based meats were bigger [and less water soluble], which causes them to pass through the epithelial cells slower compared to chicken, which in turn results in less efficient absorption.”
Professor V.M. (Bala) Balasubramaniam from Ohio State University’s Department of Food Science and Technology, who was not engaged in the study, was of the same opinion.
“With regard to this topic, I share the author’s observation. According to what scientists found, the proteins included in chicken flesh have a greater capability for swelling, which helps stimulate digestion enzymes. According to MNT, he stated that the soybean proteins include a number of antinutritional elements (such as phytate and tannins), which may impede the protein’s ability to be hydrolyzed (made water-soluble).
“In addition, structural variations between plant-based diets and those derived from animals may potentially have a role in determining how proteins are produced,” he said further.
David Julian McClements, a renowned professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, who was also not involved in the study, pointed out that digestibility and absorption are dependent on a variety of variables, including the following:
Protein type protein denaturation protein aggregation food matrix impacts antinutritional factors processing and cooking techniques protein type protein aggregation protein denaturation protein
According to him, this means that the conclusions of this study could not be applicable to other comparisons of plant-based meat.
One illustration of this is the fact that wheat gluten does not dissolve in water and contains structures that are more stiff than those of soy and chicken proteins, making it more difficult to digest. Because wheat makes up 28% of the plant-based meat used in this research, it is possible that the findings presented here might not apply to plant-based meats that are manufactured entirely from soybeans.
Nonetheless, reliable sources of protein
The authors came to the conclusion that changes to the formulation of plant-based meats as well as the production circumstances might result in an increase in the products’ nutritional content.
According to Dr. Da Chen, who spoke with MNT, “when analysing the quality of plant-based meat, it is important to evaluate not only the texture, but also the protein nutrition.”