Eating plant-based meat alternatives may have profound benefits against cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, according to a review of research published from 1970 to 2023.

Plant-based meat alternatives are highly processed plant-based food products that typically replace meat in the diet.

While there is substantial variability in the contents and nutritional profiles of these alternatives, the findings detailed in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, showed that the nutritional profiles tend to reflect a heart-healthy dietary pattern.

“While the plant-based meat market has experienced significant growth in recent years and more and more people are enjoying plant-based burgers, surprisingly little is known about how these meat alternatives may impact health and in particular cardiovascular disease risk,” said lead author Matthew Nagra, from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

“Thus, we sought to review the available literature on the topic to identify what is currently known and to provide direction for future research,” he added.

The researchers reviewed the research published from 1970 to 2023 on plant-based meat alternatives, their contents, nutritional profiles, and their impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

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Their analysis shows that on average, the plant-based alternatives tend to have a more heart-healthy nutritional profile than meat, although the high sodium content of some products may be of concern.

However, these alternatives do not raise blood pressure, but instead improve some cardiovascular risk factors, including cholesterol levels, in several randomised controlled trials.

“There is currently a lack of long-term research evaluating how these alternatives may affect the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke,” the researchers said.

“For those looking to reduce their meat intake, especially if it’s red meat, replacing that with plant-based alternatives is likely a heart-healthy choice,” said Ehud Ur, Professor, from the varsity.

“For those who already limit their meat intake, the alternatives can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern as an excellent protein source; however, it may be beneficial to choose options that are lower in saturated fat and sodium if consuming them regularly,” Ur said.

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