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In case you haven’t noticed, restaurants everywhere are trying to keep up with the vegan-meat trend by offering plant-based meat menu items.

Apparently, plant-based meat can taste exactly like normal meat, and it’s supposed to help reduce our negative impact on the environment.

However, researchers have found that eating plant-based meat products isn’t all that great.

Plant-based Meat Has No Health Advantage Over Just Meat

According to an eight-week research study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in April, they found that people who have animal meat in their diets had better glycaemic control than those who solely eat plant-based food.

The study involved 82 volunteers and it was conducted by a team from the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Now, what do the findings mean?

Having good glycaemic control, or blood sugar control, is especially important for those with diabetes. Those who fail to maintain or regulate their blood sugars are at risk of diabetes.

More specifically, according to the research paper, while those who follow plant-based diets can experience many health benefits, it does not have much “superior cardiometabolic health benefits” compared to an “omnivorous diet composed of animal-based meats”.

Cardiometabolic Health in Research – How Was The Study Conducted?

The researchers based their study on the growing demand for plant-based meat alternatives, or meat that is made of plants.

They wanted to see how these plant-based meat substitutes affected cardiometabolic health, which looks at your:

  • heart health,
  • body mass index (BMI),
  • blood sugar,
  • cholesterol levels, and
  • blood pressure

Over the eight weeks of the study, 42 participants on the animal-based meat diet (ABMD) ate frozen foods with meats: beef mince, pork mince, chicken breast, burger patty, sausage and chicken nuggets.

The rest of the participants were on the plant-based meat diet (PBMD) and they were given meats made out of plants.

Some participants from both groups had their blood sugar monitored continuously over two weeks, while some other participants did a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring. All participants had online consults with the research team during the study.

From there, the research team concluded that they couldn’t find enough evidence to show that those on PBMD have better cardiometabolic health compared to those on ABMD.

Give Up on Plant-based Meats?

In the conclusion section of the published research paper, the researchers said that including plant-based meat alternatives in your diet “may influence nutritional intake and potentially compromise glycemic management”. 

In other words, some nutritional characteristics in meat aren’t present in plants, so you might be missing out on some good stuff while trying to gain other health benefits by eating plant-based foods.

They suggested that the food industry should look into the production of future plant-based meat alternatives, such that they’re made to be more nutritional and sustainable. These are compromised during its “ultraprocessed” production.

Dr Desmond Teo, an internal medicine specialist at Alexandra Hospital told The Straits Times that the plant-based meat diets in the study had “higher total fat, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, sodium and potassium” which could affect the glucose readings. He thinks that when comparing the glycaemic control between groups, we need to look at the other variables rather than just the diet.

However, other experts that The Straits Times spoke to regarding this study agreed that blood sugar control is important to prevent complications associated with being diabetic.

They said that diabetics who want to control their blood sugar should be cautious about going vegan. Consuming less red meat is still important, but using plant-based meat alternatives “may be counterproductive” said endocrinologist Dr Ben Ng.

This may sound repetitive, but this study, as well as the health experts who weighed in on it, said that people should try to have a balanced and healthy diet.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is always good, but to say that eating plant-based meat alternatives is always better for your health is not necessarily true. There’s simply not enough evidence.

Instead, if you want to stay healthy, just eat more fiber. Here’s a video explaining the science behind this claim:

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