Metabolomics Lab's Analysis Finds Near-meat and Meat Not Nutritionally Equivalent

Tuesday, July 13, 2021
By Karl Leif Bates
Large hamburger in bun with a fried egg on it on a plate with fork

A juicy beef burger, or is it? (Guilhem Vellut via Wikimedia Commons)

Neither is good or bad, they are just not the same, authors say.

Plant-based meat substitutes taste and chew remarkably similar to real beef, and the 13 items listed on their nutrition labels – vitamins, fats and protein -- make them seem essentially equivalent.

But a Duke University research team’s deeper examination of the nutritional content of plant-based meat alternatives, using a sophisticated tool of the science known as ‘metabolomics,’ shows they’re as different as plants and animals.  

Meat-substitute manufacturers have gone to great lengths to make the plant-based product as meaty as possible, including adding leghemoglobin, an iron-carrying molecule from soy, and red beet, berries and carrot extracts to simulate bloodiness. The texture of near-meat is thickened by adding indigestible fibers like methyl cellulose. And to bring the plant-based meat alternatives up to the protein levels of meat, they use isolated plant proteins from soy, peas, and other plant sources. Some meat-substitutes also add vitamin B12 and zinc to further replicate meat’s nutrition.

Read article on Duke Today