Animal vs. Plant-Based Meat: A Hearty Debate – Dr. Nagra’s Review is Published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology

Dr. Matthew NagraArticles, Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, Heart Disease

I, Dr. Matthew Nagra, and my esteemed colleagues, Felicia Tsam, RHN, Shaun Ward, MSc, and Dr. Ehud Ur, MB, have just published a review on plant-based meat alternatives (PBMAs) and their impact on heart health in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. This review, titled “Animal vs. Plant-Based Meat: A Hearty Debate,” delves into the nutritional profiles of PBMAs compared to their animal-based counterparts and explores their effects on markers of cardiovascular health. The full review is available here. Here’s a breakdown of what we found.

Key Points from the Review

The review includes studies that were published between 1970 and August 2023, offering a thorough examination of the available literature on plant-based meat alternatives (PBMAs). Here are the main takeaways:

    1. Healthier Nutritional Profile: Plant-based meats tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol (only products that include animal byproducts, such as dairy or eggs, contain any cholesterol) and more fibre than the meat they are mimicking, which is reflective of a more heart-healthy nutritional profile.
    2. Mixed Results on Protein and Sodium: While PBMAs are generally better in terms of saturated fat and fibre content, their protein and sodium levels can vary greatly depending on the brand and type.
    3. Diversity of products: While PBMAs tend to provide healthier nutritional profiles than meat, on average, the different products that are available can still vary substantially in their profiles, so it’s important to read nutritional labels, paying particular attention to the saturated fat content, if you’re aiming for healthier options.
    4. Positive Impact on Cholesterol: Studies show that eating PBMAs can lower total and LDL cholesterol compared to eating meat, with some studies also suggesting a reduction in apoB, body weight, or waist circumference
    5. No Major Effect on Blood Pressure: Although some plant-based meats contain substantial amounts of sodium, they have not been shown to raise blood pressure in the available studies, even when products with a high salt content are used. 

The review supports the notion that replacing meat with PBMAs is likely a more heart-healthy choice. However, next, it would be nice to see long-term studies assessing the risk of actually having a heart attack or stroke amongst people who regularly consume PBMAs, which could help support stronger conclusions about these foods.

Want to dive deeper into our findings? Read the full article here.

There is also an accompanying editorial published in the same issue of the journal, available to read here.

Curious to learn more? Watch My YouTube video where I break down the review’s findings and give you an overview of the research on animal protein vs. PBMAs for heart health.

Keep up to date with the blog for more updates on how plant-based choices can lead to a healthier heart!