Plasma Amino Acid Appearance and Status of Appetite Following a Single Meal of Red Meat or a Plant-Based Meat Analog: A Randomized Crossover Clinical Trial

Curr Dev Nutr. 2022 May 4;6(5):nzac082. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzac082. eCollection 2022 May.


Background: Red meat is a nutrient-dense food and a dietary staple. A new generation of plant-based meat analogs (PBMAs) have been designed to mimic the experience of eating meat, but there is limited evidence about their digestive efficacy and nutritional quality.

Objectives: We compared the postprandial digestive response of a single meal containing meat commercially raised in New Zealand, including lamb, on-farm pasture-raised beef (Pasture), or grain-finished beef (Grain) with a PBMA (Beyond Burger; Beyond Meat) sold through consumer retail. The primary outcome was the appearance of amino acids in plasma. Secondary outcomes included glucose and insulin, appetite assessment, and anthropometry.

Methods: Thirty healthy men (20-34 y) participated in a double-blinded randomized crossover trial. Each consumed 1 of the 4 test meals on 4 occasions separated by a washout period of at least 1 wk, following an overnight fast. The meal was a burrito-style wrap containing meat or PBMAs, vegetables, salsa, and seasonings in a flour tortilla. The amount of Pasture, Grain, Lamb, or BB was 220 g raw (∼160 g cooked). Venous blood samples were collected over 4 h. Appetite and hunger status was scored with visual analog scales.

Results: Pre-meal amino acid concentrations in plasma did not differ by group (P > 0.9), although several nonessential amino acids differed strongly according to participant BMI. Postprandial amino acids peaked at 2-3 h in all groups. The BB meal produced significantly lower plasma concentrations of total, essential, branched-chain, and non-proteogenic amino acids than the Lamb, Pasture, or Grain meals, based on AUC. There were no significant differences between meal groups in scores for hunger, fullness, or cravings.

Conclusions: Red meat meals exhibited greater bioavailability of amino acids compared with the PBMA (BB). Pasture versus Grain origins of the beef had little influence on participants' responses. This trial was registered at as NCT04545398.

Keywords: amino acid; meat alternative; plant-based meat analog; protein; red meat.

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