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GUT FEELINGS: Protein digestion research findings could inspire new plant-based product development

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According to the research, proteins in plant-based meat are digested more rapidly in the stomach, but less rapidly in the small intestine, compared to animal meat.

GUAN YU LIM: Scientists have found plant-based meats are digested differently from animal-based meats in a human gut model and suggest that these findings may facilitate the formulation of a new generation of plant-based meat analogues with improved quality and nutritional attributes. Conducted by researchers from China and US, a plant-based beef and animal beef were put through a simulated gastrointestinal model, and it was found that proteins and lipids were digested differently in both products…

Plant-based meat analogues are designed to mimic real meat products and are typically formulated with plant proteins isolated from cereals and legumes, oilseeds such as sunflower and rapeseed, and dietary fibre for texture. In contrast, real meat consists of animal parts with a few other minor additives such as salts.

At present, there is a relatively poor understanding of the gastrointestinal fate of plant-based meat analogues compared to real meat products. “This knowledge is important because the digestion and absorption of these products impacts their nutritional profile and their impact on human health,” researchers wrote in Food Chemistry…

Protein digestion mainly occurs in the stomach and small intestine phases, while lipid digestion occurs in the small intestine. Based on the measurements, proteins in plant-based meat are digested more rapidly in the stomach, but less rapidly in the small intestine, compared to animal meat. Around 15.8% and 69.8% of plant-based beef protein were digested in the stomach and small intestine phases respectively. This is compared to real beef where 8.9% of the protein was digested in the stomach and 76.3% in the small intestine.

Researchers think this may have been due to the presence of dietary fibres as well as differences in protein type such as globular soy or fibrous beef proteins. For lipid digestion, plant-based beef sample was significantly lesser than the real beef sample, probably also due to the presence of dietary fibres… The findings of this study may facilitate the development of a new generation of plant-based meat analogues with improved quality and nutritional attributes…

The team is now fabricating a range of plant-based meat, fish, cheese, egg and milk products that simulate real ones, fortifying them with the required nutrients, and testing their quality attributes and nutrition effects… This research was partly supported by funding from the Good Food Institute. SOURCE…

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