- Substituting animal protein for plant protein is associated with a double-digit reduction in mortality risk and cardiovascular diseases, according to a study published by the JAMA Network.
- The study found replacing 3% of one’s total animal protein consumption with plant-based alternatives corresponded with a 10% decrease in overall mortality risk for both men and women as well as an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality for men and 12% for women. Swapping egg protein for a plant-based equivalent was associated with a 24% lower risk of mortality in men and 21% for women. At the same time, replacing red meat resulted in a 13% lower risk of overall mortality for men and 15% lower risk for women.
- These findings held true irrespective of an individual’s smoking habit, if they had diabetes or self-reported health status. The study was conducted during 16 years with 237,036 men and 179,068 women.
Studies touting the benefits of consuming a more plant-based diet, coupled with the association of plant-based alternatives and environmental sustainability, has driven more consumers to try these alternative products. A study from DuPont Nutrition & Health found 52% of U.S. consumers said they are eating more plant-based foods and they believe it makes them feel healthier. Roughly 60% of them said the switch was permanent.
This enthusiasm may be further bolstered by this new study and contribute to the continued growth of the plant-based segment. A pre-pandemic analysis of SPINS data by the Plant Based Foods Association and Good Food Institute found the entire plant-based food market was worth $5 billion, with dollar sales up 29% during the previous two years. With animal protein viewed as the segment's main competition, this study adds further momentum as plant-based alternatives strive to make further inroads with meat-loving consumers.
Plant-based meat alone will account for $2 billion of that revenue by next year, according to The Shelby Report. Still, when compared to the $100 billion market anticipated for meat in 2021, there is still a lucrative market for plant-based options to tap into.
Even though there is enthusiasm for these alternatives, there are barriers slowing further adoption. A Kerry White Paper found taste presents a major challenge for plant-based producers looking for wider adoption of their products — a reason why companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are constantly tweaking their recipes. The DuPont study noted taste is the main reason why more people don't consume plant-based foods.
Despite meaningful progress, meat continues to be a staple in the American diet. U.S. consumers ate 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018, which is nearly twice the recommended amount. According to the study just published on the JAMA Network, swapping out red meat for a plant-based alternative can have drastic effects on a person’s cardiovascular health.
Although the majority of studies laud the health benefits of a reduction of red meat in one’s diet, a multinational research team found last year there is insufficient scientific evidence for consumers to reduce consumption for health reasons. These conflicting findings have the ability to continue the ongoing debate about the most healthful choice for protein.
According to a survey by the International Food Information Council, the top reason why consumers decided to eat plant-based meat alternatives is because they like to try new foods. Findings revealed 45% of respondents said plant-based alternative protein was healthier than animal meat and 27% thought it was better for the environment. Plant-based options appear here to stay as a big part of the average consumer's diet, but to firmly establish them as a viable long-term competitor it will likely take more scientific research from companies to improve the products and a heavy push from their marketing departments to promote them.