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You may have heard about meat made out of wheat protein, meat made out of soybean protein, and meats made out of pea protein, but mycoprotein is a relatively new addition. Meat made from the mushroom kingdom, popular in Europe, commercialized as Quorn, which makes not just meat-free beef, but chicken-free chicken, fish-less fish, and pig-free pork––just in case someone would like to eat plant-based, but can’t give up their cocktail weenies.
Environmental impact-wise, Quorn beef has at least a 10 times smaller carbon footprint than that of beef; Quorn chicken at least four times better than chicken-chicken. And health-wise, it’s high in protein and ﬁber, and low in fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar, as one would expect. But, most importantly, there have been clinical trials showing it may help people control cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels, and improve satiety. No surprise given that not only the fiber but the mycoprotein itself is fermentable by our good gut bugs, so can also act as a prebiotic for our friendly flora.
There have been rare authenticated reports of people with mycoprotein allergies, and even more with unvalidated complaints, but given how many billions of packages have been sold, the rate of allergic reactions may be on the order of like 1 in 9 million.
Here’s the cholesterol data, converted into U.S. numbers. So, significant drops in total and LDL cholesterol—more than 30 points within eight weeks.
In terms of satiety, as I noted in my Evidence-Based Weight Loss presentation, both tofu and Quorn have been found to have satiating qualities that are stronger than chicken; for Quorn, among both lean subjects and overweight and obese individuals, cutting down on subsequent meal intake hours later.
You know, it’s funny, when the meat industry funds obesity studies on chicken, they choose for their head-to-head comparison foods like cookies and “sugar-coated chocolates.” This is a classic drug industry trick where you make your product look better by comparing it against something worse. (Apparently, just regular chocolate was not enough to make chicken look better.) But what happens when chicken is pitted against a real control, like chicken without the actual chicken? Chicken chickens out.
For example, feed people a chicken and rice lunch, and four and a half hours later, they eat 18 percent more of a dinner buffet than those who instead got a Quorn and rice lunch––cutting about 200 calories on average.
Part of the reason plant-based meats may be less fattening is that they cause less of an insulin spike. A meat-free chicken like Quorn causes up to 41 percent less of an immediate insulin reaction. It turns out animal protein causes almost exactly as much insulin release as pure sugar.
Just adding some egg whites to your diet can increase insulin output 60 percent within four days. And fish may be even worse.
Why would adding tuna to mashed potatoes spike up insulin levels, but adding broccoli instead drop the insulin response by about 40 percent? It’s not the fiber, since giving the same amount of broccoli fiber alone provided no significant benefit. So, why does animal protein make things worse, but plant protein makes things better?
Plant proteins tend to be lower in the branched-chain amino acids, which are associated with insulin resistance—the cause of type 2 diabetes. You can show this experimentally. Give some vegans branched-chain amino acids, and you can make them as insulin-resistant as omnivores. Or, take omnivores and put them through even a 48-hour vegan diet challenge, and within two days you can see the opposite—significant improvements in metabolic signatures. Why? Because “decreased consumption of branched-chain amino acids improves metabolic health.”
Check this out. Those randomized to restrict their protein intake were averaging literally hundreds more calories per day; so, they should have become fatter, right? But no, they actually lost more body fat. Restricting their protein enabled them to eat more calories, while at the same time they lost more weight. More calories, yet a loss of body fat! And this magic “protein restriction”? They were just having people eat the recommended amount of protein. So, maybe they should have just called this the normal protein group, or the recommended protein group, and the group that was eating more typical American protein levels, and suffering because of it, the excess protein group.
Given the “restoration of metabolic health by decreased consumption of branched-chain amino acids,” leaders in the field have suggested the invention of drugs to block their absorption, to “promote metabolic health and treat diabetes and obesity without reducing caloric intake.” Or, we can just try not to eat so many branched-chain amino acids in the first place.
They are found mostly in meat, including chicken and fish, dairy products, and eggs, perhaps explaining why animal protein has been associated with higher diabetes risk, whereas plant protein appears protective. So, defining the “appropriate upper limits” of animal protein intake “may offer a great chance for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and obesity.”
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