impression: Captions: Dr Cecilia Mayer Labba, The Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, Chalmers University of Technological know-how.
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Credit history: Credit: Martina Butorac/Chalmers

The availability of meals centered on plant proteins to substitute for meat has improved considerably as a lot more folks choose a plant-based mostly diet regime. At the exact same time, there are a lot of worries pertaining to the dietary price of these products and solutions. A research from Chalmers University of Technological innovation in Sweden now displays that a lot of of the meat substitutes bought in Sweden assert a superior articles of iron – but in a sort that cannot be absorbed by the body.

A diet plan mostly designed up of plant-primarily based meals this sort of as root greens, pulses, fruit and veggies normally has a lower weather effect and is also connected with health positive aspects these as a diminished hazard of age-similar diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as has been demonstrated in various large scientific tests. But there have been significantly less experiments of how people’s well being is afflicted by having merchandise dependent on what are identified as textured* plant proteins.

In the new research from Chalmers, a research crew in the Division of Meals and Nutrition Science analysed 44 different meat substitutes marketed in Sweden. The goods are mainly produced from soy and pea protein, but also involve the fermented soy item tempeh and mycoproteins, that is, proteins from fungi.

‘Among these merchandise, we noticed a extensive variation in dietary material and how sustainable they can be from a well being viewpoint. In standard, the approximated absorption of iron and zinc from the products was really very low. This is mainly because these meat substitutes contained substantial levels of phytates, antinutrients that inhibit the absorption of minerals in the physique,’ claims Cecilia Mayer Labba, the study’s lead author, who just lately defended her thesis on the nutritional limits of switching from animal protein to plant-based mostly protein.

The body misses out on necessary minerals

Phytates are identified naturally in beans and cereals – they accumulate when proteins are extracted for use in meat substitutes. In the gastrointestinal tract, wherever mineral absorption can take spot, phytates type insoluble compounds with vital nutritional minerals, specifically non-heme iron (iron located in plant foodstuff) and zinc, which means that they cannot be absorbed in the intestine.

‘Both iron and zinc also accumulate in protein extraction. This is why significant ranges are shown among the the product’s components, but the minerals are certain to phytates and cannot be absorbed and made use of by the entire body,’ claims Cecilia Mayer Labba.

Iron deficiency between women of all ages is a popular, world-wide problem. In Europe, 10 to 32 per cent of girls of childbearing age are affected** and pretty much one particular in three teenage ladies at secondary university in Sweden***. Girls are also the group in modern society most probable to have switched to a plant-primarily based diet plan and to take in the minimum volume of purple meat, which is the most important source of iron that can be very easily absorbed in the digestive tract.

‘It is crystal clear that when it arrives to minerals in meat substitutes, the amount of money that is accessible for absorption by the overall body is a incredibly vital thing to consider. You simply cannot just glimpse at the listing of elements. Some of the products we studied are fortified with iron but it is however inhibited by phytates. We consider that making diet claims on only these vitamins and minerals that can be absorbed by the overall body could develop incentives for the business to improve people solutions,’ claims Ann-Sofie Sandberg, Professor of Food items and Diet Science at Chalmers and co-author of the research.

The foodstuff industry needs new techniques

Tempeh, designed from fermented soybeans, differed from the other meat substitutes in the amount of iron readily available for absorption by the entire body. This was expected, as the fermentation of tempeh makes use of microorganisms that split down phytates. Mycoproteins stood out for their large zinc articles, without containing any regarded absorption inhibitors. Even so, according to the researchers, it is nonetheless unclear how perfectly our intestines can split down the cell partitions of mycoprotein and how this in flip influences the absorption of nutrition.

‘Plant-dependent foods is critical for the changeover to sustainable foodstuff generation, and there is massive enhancement potential for plant-primarily based meat substitutes. The business needs to assume about the dietary price of these merchandise and to utilise and optimise known system techniques these kinds of as fermentation, but also acquire new procedures to raise the absorption of various important nutrients,’ suggests Cecilia Mayer Labba.


Output of plant proteins

  • Most current plant-dependent protein items on the sector are based on protein extracted from a cultivated plant, this sort of as soybeans, and divided from the plant’s other factors.
  • The protein is then subjected to significant stress and temperature, which restructures the proteins, recognized as *texturization, so that a product can be realized that is meatier and chewier in blend with other elements.
  • Chalmers’ examine exhibits that the nutritional worth of meat substitutes offered now is often deficient dependent on the decision of uncooked product (normally imported soy) and processing problems (written content of anti-nutrition), and on additives (excess fat quality and salt).
  • A food made up of 150 grams of meat substitutes contributes up to 60 per cent of the greatest proposed every day ingestion of salt, which according to the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations is 6 grams. 


* The protein is restructured by large pressure and temperature.

** Milman, Taylor, Merkel and Brannon: Iron status in expecting women and females of reproductive age in Europe. Am J Clin Nutr 2017 106 (Suppl): 1655S-62S.

*** Riksmaten Adolescents Survey 2016-2017, Swedish Countrywide Food Company (Livsmedelsverket) report series no. 23, 2018. Swedish Nationwide Food items Company (Livsmedelsverket) 2018.


Browse the full article in Vitamins:

Nutritional Composition and Approximated Iron and Zinc Bioavailability of Meat Substitutes Offered on the Swedish Marketplace


The authors of the study are Cecilia Mayer Labba, Hannah Steinhausen, Linnéa Almius, Knud Erik Bach Knudsen and Ann-Sofie Sandberg. The scientists are energetic at Chalmers University of Technological know-how and Aarhus College.

The study was funded by the Bertebos Basis, the Swedish Investigation Council Formas and the location of Västra Götaland.


For much more information and facts, speak to:

Dr Cecilia Mayer Labba, The Division of Biology and Organic Engineering, Chalmers College of Engineering, [email protected]  +46 ()31 772 38 11

Professor Ann-Sofie Sandberg, The Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, Chalmers College of Technology, [email protected] +46 ()31 772 38 26 


Captions: Dr Cecilia Mayer Labba, The Office of Biology and Biological Engineering, Chalmers University of Engineering. Credit history: Martina Butorac/Chalmers

Professor Ann-Sofie Sandberg, The Office of Biology and Organic Engineering, Chalmers College of Know-how. Credit rating: Chalmers

Photograph of vegetarian meat. Credit history: Unsplash


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