Studies & Numbers

Peer Reviewed Paper Proves Plant-Based Meat is Healthier and More Sustainable than Animal Products

Following a slew of biased articles in the mainstream press deeming meat alternatives as ultra-processed and unhealthy, a brand new peer-reviewed paper published just yesterday in the Future Foods journal finds that, in fact, plant-based meat is healthier and more sustainable than animal products.

“Animal (alternative) products […] represent a more effective way of reducing demand for meat and dairy than encouraging people to cook plant-based whole foods.”

Speaking to vegconomist today, the paper’s author, Dr Chris Bryant of the University of Bath, said of the findings: “As well as favourable nutritional profiles, plant-based animal product alternatives have benefits for weight loss, muscle synthesis, gut health, and specific health conditions. Moreover, there are clear benefits over animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and a range of other environmental outcomes.”


A more effective way of reducing demand for meat and dairy

Bryant reviewed empirical literature relating to the healthiness and sustainability of plant-based alternatives and discussed consumer attitudes and behaviours. His findings reveal that “plant-based alternatives to animal products are better for the environment and have favourable nutritional profiles compared with the animal products they are designed to replace”.

The review examined 43 studies into the healthiness and environmental impacts of plant-based foods, as well as literature on consumer attitudes, and argues that as these foods are ‘specifically formulated to replicate the taste, texture, and overall eating experience of animal products’, they represent a more effective way of reducing demand for meat and dairy than encouraging people to cook plant-based whole foods.
burger Symplicity Foods
© Symplicity Foods

Specific health benefits of plant-based alternatives:

Specific health benefits related to the consumption of animal alternative products were demonstrably numerous.

  • Daily consumption of plant-based meat was associated with a 49% lower risk of hip fracture.
  • 40% of conventional meat products were classified as ‘less healthy’ based on the UK’s Nutrient Profiling Model compared to just 14% of plant-based alternatives
  • Two separate studies found that, compared to poultry, meat made from mycoprotein led to a significant reduction in insulin responses, potentially reducing insulin release in overweight people
  • Other papers showed plant-based food had cholesterol-lowering benefits and helped improve gut health
  • In many cases, the processing of plant-based ingredients can improve nutrition, with one paper highlighting how turning legumes into plant-based meat can enhance people’s ability to digest them

Benefits for the planet

  • Plant-based products with a similar taste, texture and price to processed meat had the best chance of replacing meat
  • These plant-based products caused lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than the animal products they were replacing
  • Replacing 5% of German beef consumption with pea protein would reduce CO2 emissions by eight million tonnes a year
  • Compared to beef burgers, plant-based burgers were associated with up to 98% less greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Plant-based products required much less agricultural land, as well as using less water and causing less pollution, and required similar or less energy than animal products.
Impossible Foods Chicken Nuggets
©Impossible Foods

“Overwhelming evidence”

The paper concludes that plant-based meat and dairy ‘offer a healthier and more environmentally sustainable solution which takes into account consumer preferences and behaviour’.
Chris Bryant summarises: “These products are able to shift demand away from animal products, and are able to do this far more effectively than whole plant foods, as they hit the key drivers consumers are looking for – taste, price and convenience. “I have found overwhelming evidence that, as well as being far more sustainable compared to animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use and land use, plant-based animal product alternatives also have a wide range of health benefits.
“Despite the incredible advances that plant-based producers have made over recent years, there is still huge potential to improve their taste, texture and how they cook. There’s also enormous potential to innovate with ingredients and processes to improve their nutritional properties – for example by boosting vitamin content. More research funding is now needed to make these improvements a reality, ensuring manufacturers can make products that taste better, are healthier and provide consumers with sustainable options that are more likely to reduce demand for meat.”
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