You Only Absorb 2% More Protein From Animals Products vs. Plants

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New research finds that the protein in meat alternatives made from wheat and soy may not be digested as well as protein from chicken breast.

“We were not surprised,” Osvaldo H. Campanella, Professor, Carl E. Haas Endowed Chair in Food Industries, Department of Food Science and Technology at Ohio State University, told Healthline.

“In fact, we were expecting that the amino acid profiles would be different after the digestion of chicken meat and plant-based meat if we consider the different protein make up of these two sources,” he continued.

The study was published recently in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Meat substitutes made from high protein plants
Plant-based meat substitutes are often made with plants containing high amounts of protein, which are dehydrated into a powder and mixed with seasoning.

This mix is then heated, moistened and extruded into its final form.

For this study, researchers created a model meat alternative made of soy and wheat gluten using the extrusion process.

Cooked pieces of plant-based alternative and chicken meat were ground up and broken down with an enzyme that humans use to digest food using “in vitro” (artificial environment such as a petri dish) tests.
Nutrients not absorbed as well by human cells
For the experiment, Campanella and the team grew a layer of the human cell line that mimics the lining of the human intestine in a dish that was divided into two chambers.

Then they used enzymes from the stomach and small intestine to digest the meat alternative and cooked chicken breast before placing each digested food in the chamber of the dish containing the cell layer. In order to reach the second chamber of the dish, the digested food would need to first pass through the cell layer.

Next, they measured the amount of peptides that passed through the layer of gut cells and into the second chamber. This helped them estimate how much protein may be absorbed in the gut.

“Peptides found in our diet can be naturally available in the food we eat or come from larger proteins that are broken down into peptides and amino acids by the digestive enzymes in the body,” explained Dani Rodriguez-Brindicci, MS, RDN, Director, Clinical Nutrition, Torrance Memorial Medical Center in California.
She added that peptides have many essential biological functions such as anti-inflammation, anti-hypertensive, anti-microbial, and antioxidant properties.