‘Metabolism’ refers to all the processes which occur inside an organism and its cells which are necessary to maintain life, such as the conversion of food to energy and the building blocks of key proteins, lipids and acids for the body to use. Metabolic processes can be catabolic (the breaking down of compounds to release energy), or anabolic (the synthesis of compounds, which uses energy).1 Cardiometabolic health is a relatively new term that encompasses cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The foods that we eat significantly affect our metabolic pathways. Over time, a poor diet - amongst other factors including exercise, smoking & genetic risk – can lead to what is known as metabolic syndrome. This is a cluster of interlinked conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high blood triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels, and type 2 diabetes (inability to control blood glucose levels, or ’insulin resistance’). Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of further life-threatening conditions such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Worryingly, the NHS now considers all of these conditions ‘very common’, estimating that 1 in 4 people in the UK are affected by metabolic syndrome, and recommends dietary intervention alongside regular exercise as two of several key lifestyle behaviour modifications necessary to reverse the epidemics of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.2
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition describes a randomised controlled trial which found that a macronutrient-matched meal containing mycoprotein decreased total energy intake during a free eating task, and again 24 hours later, by up to 10% compared with chicken.
What does the science say about mycoprotein?
Mycoprotein is low in fat, high in fibre and protein, contains no cholesterol and is comparatively low energy, relative to other protein sources, which is a favourable nutritional profile for the support of cardiometabolic health.3 A 2008 review of primary research conducted between the early 1990s and 2008 concluded that non-animal proteins (including mycoprotein) may be beneficial for individuals living with one or more conditions associated with metabolic syndrome,4 and a 2019 study also proposes that more research is warranted on the potential of mycoprotein in this area.5
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition describes a randomised controlled trial which found that a macronutrient-matched meal containing mycoprotein decreased total energy intake during a free eating task, and again 24 hours later, by up to 10% compared with chicken. The mycoprotein meal also significantly improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced serum insulin concentrations by 8–21%.6 The authors propose that mycoprotein’s unique fibre contribution, both physical structure and its effect on biomolecule synthesis during digestion, were the likely key factors behind improved insulin sensitivity and appetite suppression in overweight and obese adults.
In future research to further understand how mycoprotein affects glucose homeostasis, experts at Imperial College London will investigate the impact of diets rich in mycoprotein on Asian adults who are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Plus, how mycoprotein behaves alongside other ingredients will be tested in an accessible whole meal context; testing specially designed ‘just add water’ soups ranging in protein and fibre content to better understand causal mechanisms within the Asian community.
These studies will help us to begin to design new Quorn® products with evidence-based health properties for different groups of people affected by diabetes around the world.
Incorporating mycoprotein into a dietary plan
There is no one food that holds the answer to preventing and reversing cardiometabolic diseases; this requires lifestyle changes which include maintaining regular exercise, stopping smoking and limiting alcohol consumption, and any major dietary change should be supervised by a qualified healthcare professional.
Quorn products can indeed be a key part of a healthy diet, and there is a growing evidence base suggestive of the fact that mycoprotein may provide certain health protective qualities for individuals with metabolic syndrome conditions, such as acute improvements in blood lipid and sugar modulation.5 These findings warrant further investigation into their long-term benefits to health in order to make specific recommendations to practice.
Whether you are someone interested in incorporating mycoprotein into your diet, or a healthcare professional looking to support your clients with better information about their choices to manage cardiometabolic health conditions, the resources (below/here) are free to browse, download and use.
Research and evidenceExplore all research and evidence
- News Medical Life Sciences. What is Metabolism? Available at: https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Metabolism.aspx. Accessed December 2019.
- NHS. Metabolic syndrome. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/metabolic-syndrome/. Accessed December 2019.
- Derbyshire E, Ayoob KT. Nutrition Today. 2018;54:7–15.
- Denny A, at al. Mycoprotein and health. Nutrition Bulletin. 2018;33:298–310.
- Coelho MO, et al. Nutrition Reviews. 2019;nuz077
- Bottin JH, et al. Br J Nutr. 2016;116:360–74.