The Duke Molecular Physiology Institute's metabolomics core lab compared 18 samples of a popular plant-based meat alternative to 18 grass-fed ground beef samples from a ranch in Idaho. The 36 sample patties were carefully cooked, and researchers found that 171 out of the 190 metabolites they measured for varied between the beef and the plant-based meat substitute.
The beef contained 22 metabolites that the plant substitute did not, and the plant-based substitute contained 31 metabolites that meat did not. The greatest distinctions between the two occurred in amino acids, dipeptides, vitamins, phenols and types of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
In addition, metabolites known to be important to human health were found either exclusively or in greater quantities in beef, including creatine, spermine, anserine, cysteamine, glucosamine, squalene and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.
"It is important for consumers to understand that these products should not be viewed as nutritionally interchangeable, but that's not to say that one is better than the other," said Stephan van Vliet, a postdoctoral researcher at the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute who led the research. "Plant and animal foods can be complementary, because they provide different nutrients."