Quorn protein builds muscle better than milk/animal protein

A study from the University of Exeter has found that mycoprotein, the protein-rich food source that is unique to Quorn products, stimulates post-exercise muscle building to a greater extent than milk protein.

The study evaluated the digestion of protein, which allows amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to increase in the bloodstream and then become available for muscle protein building in 20 healthy, trained young men at rest and following a bout of strenuous resistance exercise.

The young men performed the exercise and were then given either milk protein or mycoprotein.

Their muscle building rates were then measured using stable isotope labelled “tracers” in the hours following protein consumption.

Animal proteins like milk are an excellent source for muscle growth, so they provide a useful comparison for testing other protein sources.

The results showed that while those who ingested milk6 protein increased their muscle building rates by up to 60%, those who had mycoprotein increased their muscle growth rates (MGRs) by more than double this — showing that mycoprotein, the main ingredient in all Quorn products, is a more effective source of protein to promote muscle growth.

“These results are very encouraging when we consider the desire of some individuals to choose non-animal derived sources of protein to support muscle mass maintenance or adaptations with training,” said Dr Benjamin Wall, Associate Professor of Nutritional Physiology, University of Exeter.

“Our data show that mycoprotein can stimulate muscles to grow faster in the hours following exercise compared with a typical animal comparator protein (milk protein) — we look forward to seeing whether these mechanistic findings translate to longer term training studies in various populations.”

Tim Finnigan, Chief Scientific Adviser for Quorn Foods, said “We’re excited to see this data being presented by the University of Exeter at ECSS. In a world where many people are trying to cut back on their meat consumption, either for environmental or health reasons, we’re happy to be able to offer an alternative protein that can provide exceptional nutrition and muscle growth, all while being meat-free.”

Recent research has suggested that current recommendations for protein intake are too low — some scientists have calculated that minimum protein requirements could have been underestimated by as much as 30-50% in some populations.1

The British Nutrition Foundation already recommends mycoprotein as a good source of dietary protein, both for everyday life and for sport and exercise.

However, in the UK roughly a third of total protein consumption comes from meat products — and increasing meat intake may have serious consequences for public health and for the environment.

A pivot to “alternative” sources of protein therefore may be advisable — and mycoprotein is well placed to fill the gap.

Health Risks With Animal Protein

A diet rich in animal protein, and meat in particular, is not good for health, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland finds, providing further backing for earlier research evidence. Men who favoured animal protein over plant-based protein in their diet had a greater risk of death in a 20-year follow-up than men whose diet was more balanced in terms of their sources of protein. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Men whose primary sources of protein were animal-based had a 23 percent higher risk of death during the follow-up than men who had the most balanced ratio of animal and plant-based protein in their diet. A high intake of meat in particular seemed to associate with adverse effects: Men eating a diet rich in meat, i.e. more than 200 grams per day, had a 23 percent greater risk of death during the follow-up than men whose intake of meat was less than 100 grams per day. The men participating in the study mainly ate red . Most nutrition recommendations limit the intake of red and processed meats. In Finland, for example, the recommended maximum intake is 500 grams per week.

The study also found that a high overall intake of dietary protein was associated with a greater risk of death in men who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at the onset of the study. A similar association was not found in men without these diseases. The findings highlight the need to investigate the health effects of protein intake especially in people who have a pre-existing chronic medical condition. The mean age of the men participating in the study was 53 years at the onset, and diets clearly lacking in protein were not typical among the study population.

“However, these findings should not be generalised to older people who are at a greater risk of malnutrition and whose intake of protein often remains below the recommended amount,” Ph.D. Student Heli Virtanen from the University of Eastern Finland points out.

Earlier studies have suggested that a high intake of animal protein, and especially the consumption of processed meats such as sausages and cold cuts, is associated with an increased risk of death. However, the big picture relating to the health effects of protein and different protein sources remains unclear.

The study is based on the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) that analysed the dietary habits of approximately 2,600 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 at the onset of the study in 1984-1989. The researchers studied the mortality of this study population in an average follow-up of 20 years by analysing registers provided by Statistics Finland. The analyses focused on the associations of dietary protein and protein sources with mortality during the follow-up, and other lifestyle factors and dietary habits were extensively controlled for, including the fact that those eating plenty of plant-based protein followed a healthier diet.

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Materials provided by University of Exeter.

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