Vegan alternatives to meat improve the intestinal microbiota even if they are ultra-processed

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Louise Hay
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Vegan alternatives to meat are often criticized as being industrial, ultra-processed and rich in controversial ingredients and additives. But now comes a new study that thinks differently: these products would in fact have beneficial effects for the intestinal microbiota.


Over the last few years, many people have switched to a vegetarian or vegan diet and, in some cases, they consume hamburgers, meatballs or other 100% vegetable products to replace meat. However, several tests have shown that these alternatives often contain a number of controversial ingredients. (Read also: Packaged vegetable meatballs and burgers: what do they really contain? The French survey)


The common thought regarding vegetable meat is to consider it ultra-processed and "low quality". Yet recently a new study, published in the journal Foods, highlighted a beneficial effect of these products.

The research aimed to investigate the impact of vegan alternatives to meat on the intestinal microbiota (which we recall also plays an important role in helping the natural defenses of our body) using 39 volunteers divided into two groups and monitored for 4 weeks.

The former replaced weekly meat intake with plant-based alternatives for five meals a week on average, the latter consumed the usual diet which includes meat and dairy.

The results of the study showed that those who ate the vegan alternatives to meat saw increases bacteria that produce butyrate or buttyric acid, a substance that is good for the body as it helps prevent disease. 


As we read in the study:

Based on our findings, we concluded that the occasional substitution of animal meat with PBMA products observed in flexible dietary models may promote positive changes in consumers' gut microbiome.


Thus the lead author of the study, Miguel Toribio-Mateas, commented on the results obtained:

I conducted it knowing that PBMAs had a bad reputation and was pleased to see the results because… meat alternatives are here to stay and can play a role as part of a healthy, balanced diet.


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A post shared by Miguel Toribio-Mateas (@miguelmateas)

The research was conducted on a small study sample and is yet to be investigated, and remember that defining a "healthy" gut can be difficult as most of the variety of the microbiota has yet to be "well explained".

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Read also:

  • Are “fake” meat burgers really healthier than red meat?
  • Watch out for the salt in veggie burgers and packaged veggie charcuterie!
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