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Meat or Wheat for Your Heart? Analyzing Health Impacts of Plant-Based Meat Alternatives in a New Study

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMay 29, 2024

As plant-based meat alternatives spike in popularity, consumers are increasingly faced with questions about their health implications, especially in comparison to traditional animal-based meats. A ground-breaking study conducted by a team of scientists led by Darel Wee Kiat Toh, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, presents findings from an 8-week randomized trial that evaluates the cardiometabolic impacts of these alternatives.

Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation's researchers, together with their colleagues, embarked on this study to understand how switching to plant-based meat analogues (PBMAs) might affect factors related to heart and metabolic health, particularly among adults at an elevated risk of diabetes.

With a sample size of 89 participants, the study randomly assigned individuals to either continue with their normal meat-containing diet or switch to PBMAs, ensuring the maintained intake of other dietary components. The primary focus was measuring LDL-cholesterol levels, alongside secondary markers like blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol profiles.

After examining data from 82 participants, interesting findings surfaced. The analysis revealed significant dietary changes—increased intake of trans-fat in the animal-based meat diet group, and heightened consumption of dietary fiber, sodium, and potassium in the PBMA group—but these shifts did not translate to a significant effect on lipoprotein profiles, including LDL cholesterol.

One noteworthy result was the PBMA group experiencing a slight lowering in diastolic blood pressure compared to their animal-based counterparts. However, nocturnal diastolic blood pressure interestingly increased in the animal-based group and decreased in the PBMA group. Additionally, both diet groups showed improvements in fructosamine concentrations, an indicator of average blood glucose, and beta-cell function by the end of the study.

A notable twist in findings came from detailed glucose monitoring; individuals on animal-based diets demonstrated better-regulated glycemic control than those on PBMAs. This points to a potential need for carefully considering the composition of PBMAs in dietary planning, especially for those managing diabetes or at high risk.

Overall, the study suggests that plant-based meat analogues may not offer widespread cardiometabolic health benefits over traditional meat in the short term. This insight could be crucial not only for consumers making dietary choices but also for manufacturers aiming to improve the nutritional value of PBMAs.

Readers interested in the full details can find the study online at The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This research has sparked an essential dialogue about the nutritional trade-offs in modern dietary transitions.

For more information, please refer to the published article by D.W. Kiat Toh and colleagues: "Plant-based meat analogues (PBMAs) and their effects on cardiometabolic health: An 8-week randomized controlled trial comparing PBMAs with their corresponding animal-based foods" available at

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Toh, D. W. K., Fu, A. S., Mehta, K. A., Lam, N. Y. L., Haldar, S., & Henry, C. J. (2024). Plant-based meat analogues (PBMAs) and their effects on cardiometabolic health: An 8-week randomized controlled trial comparing PBMAs with their corresponding animal-based foods. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.