Health

The BeanMan Study in Finland Examines Effects on Male Health of Legume Protein Compared to Meat

A study conducted at the University of Helsinki showed that partial replacement of red and processed meat with foods based on peas and broad beans (also known as faba or fava beans) ensures an adequate intake of amino acids in the diet and does not negatively affect bone metabolism.

“Reducing the consumption of red and processed meat in the diet to the ceiling of the Planetary Health Diet while increasing the consumption of legumes grown in Finland, such as peas and field beans, is safe from a protein nutrition perspective. Bone health is also not affected by such dietary changes,” says PhD student Suvi Itkonen from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

For the BeanMan study, 102 Finnish men followed a study diet for six weeks. The participants were divided into the following two groups:

  • One group consumed 760 grams of red and processed meat per week, which accounted for 25% of total protein intake. This amount corresponds to the average protein consumption of Finnish men.
  • The other group consumed legume-based foods, primarily peas and broad beans, which accounted for 20% of total protein intake. In addition, the amount of red and processed meat consumed per week in this group was within the Planetary Health Diet ceiling (200 g or 5% of total protein intake).

Otherwise, the study participants followed their usual diet, but were not allowed to eat any red or processed meat or legumes other than those specified in the study.

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The researchers found no differences between the diet groups in markers of bone formation or resorption. There were also no differences between the groups in the intake of calcium or vitamin D. Calcium intake was in line with current dietary recommendations and vitamin D intake was very close to recommendations. The average intake of essential amino acids and proteins corresponded to the recommendations in both groups.

An important lifestyle change for the planet

“Reducing meat consumption is extremely important in terms of environmental impact,” Itkonen said. The plant-based diet is becoming increasingly popular and the recently updated Nordic Dietary Recommendations also emphasize the restriction of meat consumption and moderation of milk consumption.

“In this study, subjects consumed dairy products as in their usual diet, so their calcium and vitamin D intake remained unchanged. However, with regard to bone health, it is important to remember that when reducing dairy products in the diet, the intake of calcium and vitamin D from other sources must be ensured. These sources can be plant-based beverages and yogurt-like products fortified with these nutrients, or dietary supplements when needed,” Itkonen points out.

Additional results from the BeanMan study, including those related to lipid metabolism, gut health, and nutrient intake, will be released later. More information on this at www.helsinki.fi/en.

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