A recent study was conducted by the Ohio State University to compare protein absorption from chicken with plant-based meat.
The results were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
In this project, the group of authors made plant-based meat from wheat gluten and soybean, which contained 24.2 percent of protein.
Next, scientists cooked both chicken and plant-based meat, then ground them to mimic the chewing process. Ground meats then underwent vitro tests to stimulate the absorption of protein during digestion.
In general, proteins are digested before being absorbed by intestinal epithelial cells. After this process, proteins are transformed into peptides with different polarities and sizes, depending on the degree of absorption.
Scientists found that about 50 percent of 110 peptides in the plant-based meat remained after digestion, while only 15 percent of 500 peptides in chicken meat remained. The results indicated that protein in plant-based meat is harder to absorb than protein in chicken.
This result can be explained by structural differences between animal and plant-based foods, which would affect the release of proteins.
Note that certain factors may affect absorption and digestibility, such as food matrix effects, protein aggregation, protein denaturation, protein type, cooking and processing methods, and antinutritional factors.
Therefore, results from this research would not apply to every comparison involving plant-based meats.
The authors noted that meats from plant-based sources would still be great sources of protein. They contain a fine amino acid profile that can provide valuable nutrition for us.
It is possible to improve the nutritional profile of plant-based meats by adjusting production and formulation conditions.
The study can provide more insight on how proteins in animal and plant-based sources affect human health. As a result, it may allow food manufacturers to learn more about the pros and cons of various ingredients and processing methods.
There are still some limitations in this study. First, scientists only used wheat/soy proteins as the primary source of protein for meat production. Results would be different for other formulations or types of protein.
Another drawback is the only use of vitro digestion, which would lead to several differences from results of in vivo digestion. In the future, researchers should focus more on clinical trials.
Overall, the findings of this study are important. We want to make sure that plant-based foods are safe and effective alternatives to animal foods.