Overweight or obese participants who consumed soy protein as part of a reduced-calorie, high-protein diet lost as much weight as participants who consumed other types of protein, according to a study from the University of Colorado.
Researchers compared the effects of a four-month, energy-restricted, higher-protein weight loss intervention, followed by an eight-month weight maintenance phase. They concluded soy protein is "acceptably comparable in efficacy to other proteins for weight loss" and could help those wanting to increase protein intake from high‐quality vegetarian sources as part of a high‐protein, reduced-calorie diet.
The study said the main limitations were the lack of normal protein control groups with and without soy consumption, along with a dependence on self‐reporting.The findings were published last month in the journal Obesity Science & Practice, with partial support from DuPont Nutrition & Health.
While American consumers love protein, there has been some concern about how much they're ingesting and what the best kinds might be for optimum health. This study focused on the positives of a protein-heavy diet and seems to echo the same reason so many shoppers are drawn to the ingredient: It can be a useful tool when it comes to health.
But is achieving and maintaining weight loss better enhanced by animal-based protein or plant-based protein? This study indicates both are effective for those purposes, so perhaps food and beverage manufacturers could find marketing opportunities in the study's conclusions.
DuPont has good reason to appreciate the study's findings since it produces under the Danisco label a wide range of soy protein products, which the company claims provide "nutritional, functional and environmental advantages over animal-based proteins." Participants in the Colorado study consumed 20 grams of lean, high-quality soy protein per serving as dry-blended beverages, a sausage-like soy patty and a nutrition bar — all developed by DuPont scientists.
Companies incorporating soy or other plant-based proteins in their products could attract consumers by advertising the fact on labels, in stores and online. It might be helpful to mention that plant-based proteins can be part of an effective weight-loss strategy for consumers looking to keep their weight down — as long as they exercise, count calories and otherwise have a balanced diet.
However, a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland linked plant-based diets to a slightly higher risk of heart failure, although diets that featured dairy-based, animal-based and all protein sources had higher risks than plant-based ones.
Consumers like the term "plant-based" and increasingly seek out foods and beverages with labels sporting that term. In addition to plant-based beverages from Danone North America, Blue Diamond, Califia, Ripple and others that are growing in popularity, Good Karma is seeing success with both its flax-based beverages and yogurt, while Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are gaining distribution with their plant-based burgers.
Even though many of these plant-based products cost more than animal-based ones, consumers are willing to pay more for those they view as healthier, cleaner and made without harming animals. So, plant-based protein can function as both a value-add and a value for manufacturers and consumers.
It's not clear whether shoppers will see all plant-based protein products as weight-loss aids. It's more likely that a protein shake or nutrition bar would be viewed in that light than perhaps pancakes or desserts with added protein.
There's no consensus on which plant-based protein source is the healthiest, although a number of them typically make the list: lentils, buckwheat, chickpeas, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, amaranth and quinoa. These score high in protein levels per serving and, in various combinations, contribute the nine essential amino acids humans need but can't make on their own.