Study uses DIAAS system to understand protein quality in meat burgers and plant-based burgers

A new study from the University of Illinois and Colorado State University uses the DIAAS system to understand the protein quality in beef and pork burgers and plant-based burgers from Impossible ™ and Beyond Meat®.

Plant-based burgers often promise protein comparable to their animal counterparts, but the way protein is expressed on current nutrition labels – a single generic value expressed in grams – can be misleading. This is because the human body does not use “proteins”in itself. Instead, it needs essential amino acids, which are found in protein, but the concentration and digestibility of amino acids is different depending on the protein sources.

To account for these differences, a new protein quality standard, the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS), was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) there. is about ten years old. It focuses specifically on the digestibility of essential amino acids and aims to put more precise tools in the hands of nutritionists and food aid programs around the world.

A new study from the University of Illinois and Colorado State University uses the DIAAS system to understand the protein quality in beef and pork burgers and plant-based burgers from Impossible ™ and Beyond Meat®.

The researchers gave the pigs pork burgers, 80% and 93% lean beef burgers, the soy-based Impossible Burger and the pea-based Beyond Burger, the research topic recommended by FAO for DIAAS studies. They then measured the digestibility of individual essential amino acids and used these digestibility scores to calculate the DIAAS values.

Beef and pork burgers, served without buns, were rated as “great” sources of protein (DIAAS scores 100+, for people of all ages). The Impossible Burger, when served without a bun, has also been found to be a great source of protein for kids 3 and up, but not for kids under 3. With a value of 83, the Beyond Burger without bread was a “good” source of protein for ages 3 and up.

We have already observed that animal proteins have higher DIAAS values ​​than vegetable proteins and this is also what we observed in this experiment. “

Hans H. Stein, professor, Department of Animal Sciences and Division of Nutritional Sciences of Illinois and co-author on the European Journal of Nutrition to study

Hamburger patties are typically eaten with a bun, so the researchers also looked at the protein quality of the patties and buns together. Because grain products, such as hamburger buns, offer low protein quality, feeding the bread and patties together reduced the DIAAS values.

Consuming the Impossible Burger on a bun reduced the DIAAS value to “good” (for ages 3 and up). But when 80% lean pork or beef patties were eaten with rolls, the DIAAS values ​​were always equal to or greater than 100 for the age group over 3 years old, demonstrating that the requirement for all acids essential amines were satisfied by these combinations.

“There was a higher DIAAS value for mixing the pork or beef burger with the bun – values ​​of 107 and 105 respectively, for the age group over 3 years old – than there is. had for the Impossible Burger, which had a DIAAS value of 86 si That means you have to eat 15% more of the Impossible Burger-bun combination to get the same amount of digestible amino acids as if you eat the burgers made from pork or beef. eat more, that means you also get more calories, ”says Mahesh Narayanan Nair, professor at Colorado State University and co-author of the publication.

Stein says, “Especially children, adolescents, nursing mothers and the elderly are at risk of not getting enough amino acids. The results of this experiment, as well as previous data, demonstrate the importance of incorporating animal proteins into diets to provide sufficient amounts of digestible essential amino acids to these populations.

“This is also very important in developing countries where access to animal protein may be limited, especially for children. In some countries, the majority of children are deprived of amino acids. This is extremely serious because, if children do not get enough amino acids, their brain development can suffer. It is particularly important in these cases to devise a strategy for incorporating high quality protein into children’s diets.


University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

Journal reference:

Fanelli, NS, et al. (2021) Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) is higher in animal-based burgers than in plant-based burgers if determined in pigs. European Journal of Nutrition.

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