In order for individuals to maintain their body weight, energy intake must balance with energy expenditure. Failure to maintain energy balance will result in weight change. Energy balance, and subsequently, weight, is managed through diet as well as physical activity.1
The composition of the foods we eat, the rate at which we eat them, and even where we eat them all affect how much we consume during each meal, and therefore how hungry we feel later that day. Caloric and protein content is important for appetite regulation, and we associate these nutrients, particularly protein, with the expectation of feeling full. However, wider nutritional composition of foods such as the amount of fibre have been shown to provide satiating benefits over and above protein intakes themselves in studies with overweight and obese individuals.2
Foods that are high in fibre, including most plants and fungi, are health promoting, in part, because they help to maintain a rich family of microbiota in your gut, called the microbiome. When food reaches the gut, microbiota contribute to fermentation of the dietary fibre, and production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These appear to be important markers of gastrointestinal health, and have been linked to better immune function, appetite regulation and weight control. Higher fibre intakes tend to reduce the overall energy density of diets, and there is extensive evidence that microbiome composition itself influences energy metabolism.3
A report published by the NHS stated that in England, in 2017, the proportion of adults who were obese was 29%, higher than observed in previous years, highlighting the need for new and alternative weight management strategies.4
A report published by the NHS stated that in England, in 2017, the proportion of adults who were obese was 29% higher than observed in previous years, highlighting the need for new and alternative weight management strategies.
What does the science say about mycoprotein?
Mycoprotein is mainly comprised of nutrients which have been shown to effectively induce satiety, such as protein and fibre. Several studies conducted with healthy volunteers demonstrate that there have been no negative effects observed so far on appetite regulation from substituting meats like beef and chicken for mycoprotein in Quorn® products. Appetite experts at the University of Nottingham tested 11 male volunteers on their feelings of satiety and also sampled their blood plasma lipid concentrations following a meal containing either Quorn mince, or beef mince, and found no significant differences.5 In some cases, mycoprotein has been shown to outperform meat in identical dishes on feelings of fullness and subsequent volume of food eaten.5–7
Mycoprotein is high in fibre, containing 6g per 100g of mycoprotein, two thirds of which are β-glucans and the remainder chitin. This composition shared similarities with seaweed, mushrooms and oats, all of which are fermentable to produce SCFAs.8 It is plausible that mycoprotein may offer comparable health benefits by behaving similarly within the gut during digestion.
Metabolism, digestion and gut health experts at Imperial College London and Quadrum Institute have investigated the effects of the specific fibre contained within mycoprotein and found that both the isolated mycoprotein fibre itself, and whole mycoprotein, produce SCFAs ‘in vitro’ (i.e. observing the effects in a controlled experimental environment, rather than within a living organism).
An even more interesting result showed that, when compared with one another, whole mycoprotein produced more SCFAs than the isolated mycoprotein fibre, indicating that there may be potential extra gut health benefits to consuming mycoprotein as a whole food rather than the fibre on its own.8 This is referred to as the ‘whole food matrix’ and is a growing area of inquiry in nutritional science as a way to study the effects of whole foods rather than single nutrients, which may be metabolised by the body very differently.9
Incorporating mycoprotein into a dietary plan
Of all the SCFAs, mycoprotein notably contributes to propionate and butyrate production (the two acids most commonly seen as health protective) in the gut, which have been linked to appetite regulation and the inhibition of cholesterol formation.10,11 Therefore, Quorn products may be a beneficial addition to the diets of those with high cholesterol and/or who are looking for satiating meals to aid with weight loss and/or management.
Appetite is also affected by psychological mechanisms - e.g. memory, perceived size of the meal, our mood at the time, and our external environment. Pairing high protein, high fibre foods such as mycoprotein with mindful eating advice may benefit individuals who struggle, particularly, to curb their hunger.
Future areas of research on weight management in healthy ageing and recovery from certain conditions could provide important insights for individuals who need to focus on a weight gain intervention, rather than a weight loss outcome.
Due to their high fibre content, Quorn products containing higher percentages of mycoprotein may be less appropriate for individuals living with Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel syndrome. If you suffer from these conditions, you should slowly introduce any new foods, and tailor subsequent consumption to suit individual needs under the advice of a healthcare specialist.
Research and evidenceExplore all research and evidence
- British Nutrition Foundation. Energy intake and expenditure. Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/obesityandweightmanagement/energy-intake-and-expenditure.html?start=5. Accessed December 2019.
- Gratz SW, et al. Eur J Nutr. 2019;58:1147–58.
- Khan MJ, et al. J Obes. 2016;2016:7353642. Epub ahead of print.
- NHS Digital. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England, 2019. Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet-england-2019/part-3-adult-obesity. Accessed December 2019.
- Burley VJ, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1993 Jun;47(6):409–18.
- Turnball WH, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 1993;58:507–12.
- Clark M, et al. Proc Nutr Soc. 2015 ;74(OCE5):E308.
- Harris HC, et al. Nutrients. 2019;11:pii: E800. doi: 10.3390/nu11040800.
- Aguilera JM. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018;10:1–18.
- De Vadder F, et al. Cell. 2014;156:84–96.
- Harris HC. An investigation into the properties of non-digestible carbohydrates that selectively promote colonic propionate production. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 2016.