Researchers have calculated the nutritional effects of replacing ‘easily swappable’ animal-origin dairy milk and meat with physically and functionally identical plant-origin items among Australians in a study published in the Nutrients Journal.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reducing the consumption of foods derived from animals, such as dairy and meat, and increasing the consumption of plant-based foods could help safeguard the environment.
Government programs have been established in order to promote dietary shifts toward plant-based diets. However, the recorded nutritious composition of foods made from plants as opposed to animals is primarily reliant on information from food packaging.
As a result, information on the actual nutritional content is scarce, especially on the composition of micronutrients.
Concerning the study
Researchers assessed the nutritional effects of switching to plant-based meat and dairy products in Australia in the current microsimulation dietary modeling study.
Using dietary microdata from the Australian health survey’s national nutrition and physical activity survey (NNPAS), which was conducted from May 2011 to June 2012, computer-simulated models were fitted.
Based on 2030 predicted mean annual intake of plant-origin’meat’ from two Deloitte Access Economics estimates, the team analyzed both aggressive and conservative dietary replacement scenarios, substituting animal-origin meat and dairy milk with their plant-origin counterparts.
In a supplementary study, the team looked at the estimated nutritional impacts of dietary transitions for subgroups of young children (two to three years), young adults (71.0 years), young males (19.0 to 30.0 years), and young females (19.0 to 30.0 years).
The eight-digit food codes were used to find the dietary analogs. Various chicken parts, primarily wings, breasts, thighs, fillets, drumsticks, and pork/beef/chicken sausages were included in the animal-origin meat exchange, along with mince, fillet, beef steak, and cow milk for the dairy milk component.
For the NNPAS investigation, data from 12,153 randomly selected Australians ranging in age from two to ninety years were used to analyze food consumption using de-identified 24-hour diet recalls, weighted against individuals’ age, sex, and residence.
By connecting food codes (and mean quantity of dietary intake) to the relevant national food intake nutrient profiles reported in the AUSNUT 2011-2013 database, the mean dietary consumption of each food item was calculated for the base case populations.
Foods were substituted in the dietary replacement scenarios, and then the mean percent difference in critical nutrient consumption between the base case (consumption from 2011 to 2012) and the computer-modeled scenarios was calculated.
Key nutrients were those for which ‘easily swappable animal-origin meat and dairy milk’ supplied 5.0% of the mean total dietary consumption for Australians aged two years.
The results suggested that the extensive use of “milk” and “meat” of plant origin as opposed to the originals from animals could have a negative impact on Australians’ consumption of a few nutrients. particularly iodine, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12).
In the conservative milk and meat scenarios, small variations in projected food intake were seen. Combining the accelerated scenarios, however, revealed that the theoretical intake of iodine and cyanocobalamin decreased by 14.0% and 19.0%, respectively, and sodium intake increased significantly (by 7.0% and 15.0%, respectively).
Additionally, 6.0 to 8.0% less zinc, phosphorus, niacin, riboflavin, and omega-3 fatty acids were consumed.
According to the results of the 2011–2012 NNPAS study, food consumption may be problematic because of computer-simulated drops in nutrient intake, which are likely to exacerbate already-existing dietary insufficiencies.
The consumption of iodine by women, particularly young women, cyanocobalamin by women, omega-3 fatty acids by adults, riboflavin by older adults, vitamin A and zinc by young men, vitamin B6 by young women, selenium and calcium by older adults, and protein and zinc by older men are a few examples.
Niacin, cyanocobalamin, and omega-3 fatty acid consumption were theoretically reduced in the accelerated-type meat intake scenario by 6.0% to 7.0%, whereas sodium and iron consumption were supposedly greater by 6% and 12%.
On the other hand, the accelerated-type milk intake scenario hypothetically reduced the intake of cyanocobalamin and iodine (by 12% and 17%, respectively) and phosphorus, calcium, and riboflavin by 5.0%.
Australians, who the World Health Organization (WHO) had previously classified as having a moderate deficit, had an estimated notable decline in iodine consumption of 14%.
In comparison to the mean food intake for the 2011–2012 year, it is anticipated that consumption of cyanocobalamin will decrease by 31% among young children and adults, and by 16% to 19% among adults, in relation to the accelerated scenarios.
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The results are worrying, especially for older adults who have a decreased ability to absorb cyanocobalamin and for females under the age of 14 since 5.0% to 8.0% of them were found to have insufficient consumption in 2011–2012.
The estimated 6% to 10% fall in intake in the accelerated meat scenario, with 80.0% of adult Australians predicted to consume inadequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in 2011–2012, would undoubtedly have a negative impact on health.
Furthermore, as 33% of Australian men and 67% of older males were found to consume insufficient quantities in 2011–12, and the accelerated scenario predicted a 6.0–8.0% decline in intake, the zinc intake may be particularly problematic among men if animal-origin food intake is reduced.
According to the study’s findings, replacing ‘like-for-like’ animal-origin milk and meat with imitation plant-origin products may increase the risk of nutritional deficiency in Australians, especially with regard to cyanocobalamin and iodine (for women), zinc (for men), and omega-3 fatty acids (for adults), in the accelerated scenario.