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High plant-based protein diet not bad for muscles

Yesterday we wrote about an animal study that suggests that a diet containing a large amount of plant-based protein may have a negative effect on body composition. Because lab animals are not humans, we went in search of recent research on the effect of plant-based and animal proteins on humans - and stumbled across an epidemiological study published by nutritionists at the University of Massachusetts in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers used data on 2986 men and women aged between 19 and 72, which was gathered for the Framingham Third Generation Study. The researchers had information on the participants' diet, they did a scan to measure muscle mass in the participants' arms and legs, and they determined the amount of power the participants were capable of generating when doing leg extensions.

The researchers did a cluster analysis to determine the type of protein the participants consumed in their diet, and distinguished 6 diet types as a result.

In the Fast-food/full-fat dairy cluster, the proteins came largely from not very healthy foods; in the Legumes cluster, beans and other vegetables were an important source of protein and meat protein was noticeably absent. This cluster was mainly populated by people who ate little meat, vegetarians and vegans.

Click on the tables for a larger version.

High plant-based protein diet not bad for muscles

High plant-based protein diet not bad for muscles

At first glance the fast-food pattern seemed to result in the biggest and strongest muscles and the legumes dietary pattern, in contrast, was worst for the muscles. And yes, these differences were statistically significant.

High plant-based protein diet not bad for muscles

High plant-based protein diet not bad for muscles

Then the researchers corrected their data, among other things, for the total amount of protein in the diet. And then it suddenly made no difference what the origin of the protein in the diet was. The differences between the groups were no longer statistically significant.

High plant-based protein diet not bad for muscles

High plant-based protein diet not bad for muscles

The researchers emphasised that the people in the study had a protein intake that was on the high side - about 35 g a day higher than recommended by main stream nutritionists.

"The protein intake pattern, as described by a cluster analysis, is not associated with differences in bone mineral density, muscle mass, or muscle strength," concluded the researchers.

"Null results may be explained by the protein replete population studied with intakes well in excess of the recommended daily allowance for dietary protein (on average, 30-40 g above the recommended daily allowance)."

"In protein-replete adults, protein food pattern (source) may not contribute to musculoskeletal outcomes in a meaningful manner."

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Mar;105(3):714-22.

Animal study: plant-based proteins with bad amino acid profile make you fatter 14.05.2017
Soya protein and casein equally good for muscles 25.09.2010
Animal protein builds muscle mass - plant protein doesn't 08.09.2010

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