The study leverages the DIAAS system to determine the quality of protein in meat-based and plant-based burgers.

A new study conducted by the University of Illinois, Colorado State University and the DIAAS system is used to study the protein quality of beef and pork burgers, as well as plant-based burgers.

Although plant-based burgers can often claim to have the same protein as their counterparts made from animal products however, the current nutrition labels – that only provide a single generic value in grams – can be inaccurate. That’s because the human body does not use “protein” per se. Instead, it requires amino acids, which are contained in proteins, but the amount and digestibility of amino acids are different for different protein sources.

A new standard for protein quality, known as the digestible indispensable amino acids score (DIAAS) was established by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) about a decade ago to take into account these differences. It specifically focuses on the digestibility of essential amino acids and aims to provide more accurate tools into the hands of nutritionists and food assistance programs all over.

A new study conducted by the University of Illinois, Colorado State University and the DIAAS system is used to analyze the protein quality of beef and pork burgers as well plant-based burgers.

Researchers fed burgers made of pork to pigs. They also fed them the soy-based Impossible Burger and the pea-based Beyond Burger. The digestibility of each essential amino acid was measured and the scores were used to calculate DIAAS values.

Both beef and pork burgers served without buns scored as “excellent” sources of protein (DIAAS scores 100+ for people of all age groups). The Impossible Burger, when served without buns, also scored as an excellent protein source for children aged 3 and over however it is not suitable for children younger than three years old. The Beyond Burger without a bun was an “good” source for protein for children aged 3 and older with a score of 83.

We have previously observed that animal proteins have higher DIAAS values than plant-based proteins do, and this is exactly what we observed in this experiment.”

Hans H. Stein, Professor, Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Illinois and co-author of the European Journal of Nutritionstudy

Burger patties are often consumed with a bun. Researchers also examined the protein content of the patties and buns. Because of the low protein content of bread products such as hamburger buns the DIAAS levels were decreased by feeding the buns and patties together.

Consuming the Impossible Burger together with a bun reduced the DIAAS value to “good” (for ages 3 and above). However, when pork or 80% lean beef patties were consumed together with buns, DIAAS values were still at or above 100 for the over-3 age group, demonstrating that the needs of all amino acids essential to life were met by these combinations.

Mixing the beef burger or pork burger with the bun had a higher DIAAS score than the Impossible Burger which had a DIAAS score of 86 when it was eaten with the bun. To get the same amount of digestible amino acids, you’ll require eating 15% more Impossible Burger and bun combination than if you consume the beef or pork-based hamburgers. And if you need to consume more food, that means you’ll also consume more calories,” says Mahesh Narayanan Nair, professor at Colorado State University and a co-author of the publication.

Stein says, “It’s particularly children, teenagers, lactating mothers, and older people who are at risk of not getting enough amino acids. The results of this research together with other data prove the importance of getting animal-based proteins into diets in order to ensure adequate amounts of essential amino acids that are digestible to these populations.

“This is also very important in developing countries where there might be limited access to animal-based protein sources, especially for children. In certain countries, the majority of children are lacking in amino acids. That’s extremely serious because, when children don’t receive enough amino acids and their brain development may be affected. It is especially important to develop a plan to ensure that children receive high-quality protein in their diets. “

Journal reference:

Fanelli, N.S., and. (2021) Digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS) is higher in burgers made with animal fats than plant-based burgers if determined in pigs. European Journal of Nutrition.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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