The cross-over study, SWAP-MEAT: Study With Appetizing Plant Food - Meat Eating Alternatives Trial was led by Dr. Christopher Gardner, Stanford University, and studied 36 participants’ cardiometabolic and body composition levels after eating plant-based and conventional meat over eight weeks. Beyond Meat was not involved in designing or conducting the study and did not participate in data analysis, according to the company.
While both groups showed almost identical calories, sodium, protein and blood pressure levels, the results found a change in cardiometabolic factors. Those consuming plant-based meat showed a “significant drop in trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), an emerging cardiovascular risk factor,” Gardner explained. Participants eating plant-based meat also showed having more fiber and carbohydrate content, while those eating conventional meat showed a higher saturated fat intake.
Further, those who ate plant-based meat first followed by animal meat showed a greater reduction in TMAO than those who consumed animal meat first and plant-based meat second. Gardner suggested that the microbiome may play a role in the health benefits of plant-based meat, although more research is needed to confirm.
The most statistically significant finding from Gardner’s research was that participants lost an average of two pounds when they consumed plant-based meat products. However, he cautioned that this is not a clinically significant weight loss, and that the study was not designed to assess the long-term weight loss effects of plant-based meat products.
In sum, Gardner reported that the study found no adverse health affects from consuming plant-based meat products.
Beyond Meat CEO urges plant-based industry to promote transparency around processes and ingredients
Ethan Brown, CEO, Beyond Meat, urged the industry to educate the public about the health and sustainability benefits of plant-based meat, and promote transparency about processes and ingredients.
“As we know, the plant based meat industry currently suffers under the dark, poorly defined and politicized cloud of being a processed food, a product offering once deemed a breakthrough in human dietary health with 50% of Americans in 2020… only for that number to dwindle in 2022 to 38%. My guess is today, it will be even lower,” he said.
Recently, Beyond Meat, which faced disappointing Q2 revenue, launched its campaign, There's Goodness Here to raise awareness and education on how its plant-based meats are made.
“Our most recent [product] launch in the United States does this process with the following ingredients: water, wheat gluten, fava bean protein, expeller pressed canola oil, salt, natural flavor and less than one percent of spice, garlic powder, onion powder, pomegranate concentrate, yeast extract, sunflower lecithin, fruit and vegetable color.”
He also cited methyl cellulose, “a form of vegetable fiber to which carbon has been added,” which was a point of controversy for Beyond Meat in 2022, as an FDA and health professional-approved ingredient that “allows us to build healthier meats, meats free from cholesterol, lower saturated fat, free from antibiotics, free from hormones, meats that do not rely on feeds that contain heavy metals and meats that do not fall subject to carcinogen warnings.”
[*Editor's Note: This story has been edited on Sept. 27 to reflect Beyond Meat's funding to the study as an unrestricted gift]