Replacing meat with Quorn's mycoprotein reduces cancer-causing chemicals in the intestines

Researchers from Northumbria University have found that swapping red and processed meat for Quorn's mycoprotein, a fungi-based meat alternative, leads to a significant reduction in intestinal genotoxins - which can cause bowel cancer - and increases healthy gut bacteria.

Their study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, explored for the first time the effects of replacing a high red and processed meat intake with mycoprotein on the levels of cancer causing chemicals, known as genotoxins, found in the intestines, as well as the impact on gut health.

The randomized clinical trial followed 20 healthy male adults aged 18-50 and was split into two distinct phases. The meat phase saw trialists consume 240g of red and processed meat - including beef steak, pork sausages and ham slices - each day for a two-week period. For the mycoprotein phase, they consumed the same weight in fungi-derived mycoprotein equivalents over a separate two-week period, with a 'washout' period of four weeks between the two phases.

Analysis of stool and urine samples from the mycoprotein phase revealed that levels of detected genotoxins like nitroso compounds (NOC) and p-cresol - chemical contaminants that have been found to be potential cancer risk markers - were significantly reduced. Conversely, results from the meat phase showed that genotoxin levels had risen, potentially increasing the long-term risk of bowel cancer, which is also known as colorectal cancer. The difference between the meat and mycoprotein phases was statistically significant.

As well as delivering significant reductions in harmful genotoxins, the mycoprotein diet was also found to significantly improve gut health, increasing the abundance of protective bacteria such as Lactobacilli, Roseburia, and Akkermansia, which are associated with offering protection against chemically induced tumours, inflammation and bowel cancer.

In contrast, findings from the meat phase revealed an increase in gut bacteria linked with issues such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, weight gain and other negative health outcomes.

Epidemiological data consistently associates red and processed meat with an increased risk of bowel cancer, leading to recommendations from both EATLancet and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to reduce meat consumption.

Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Dr Daniel Commane, Associate Professor in Nutritional Sciences at Northumbria University, said:

"Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with more than 40,000 new cases each year³, and data consistently associates red and processed meat consumption with increasing people's risk.

"As previous studies had identified that reasons for this enhanced risk include the fact that meat increases genotoxicity and, potentially, reduces fiber intake due to it commonly displacing plant foods, we wanted to explore the impact of switching meat for the fungi-based mycoprotein when it came to bowel cancer risk.

"The study showed that this dietary change delivers a significant reduction in genotoxicity and an increase in beneficial gut microbes. Our findings suggest therefore that this high-fiber protein source provides a good alternative to meat in the context of gut health and could help to reduce long-term bowel cancer risk."

The trial was investigator blind, meaning the researchers did not know which group had which diet, and participants were screened for any gastrointestinal diseases or use of medication that might affect their gut/intestine, along with other conditions like coronary artery disease and diabetes. Participants were also asked to avoid consuming any other meat or Quorn mycoprotein products other than the supplied study foods, as well as any additional high protein, fibre or probiotic supplements, during the trial.

This latest study adds to the growing body of evidence that the nutritious protein source that is mycoprotein offers substantial health benefits, protecting against a range of diseases and conditions.

With official dietary advice encouraging everyone to consume less meat to improve the health of people and our planet, alternatives such as Quorn's mycoprotein, which has an excellent nutrition profile, being high in protein and fiber, low in saturated fat and free from trans-fat and cholesterol, is really important. While many meat alternatives are plant-based, mycoprotein is fungi-based which, emerging evidence suggests, brings a range of additional benefits to metabolic health."

Tim Finnigan, Scientific Advisor for Quorn Foods

Academics from Northumbria's Nutrition and Food Research Group are continuing to investigate the impact of mycoprotein on gut health. In particular, they are interested in understanding how the gut uses fibres in mycoprotein, such as chitin, beta glucan and mannan, and whether they might help train our immune systems or aid in lowering cholesterol levels, for example. The research team also said that further studies are needed to look at the impact of mycoprotein on gut health in different participant groups, disease or health states, and with other gut health outcomes.

This study is the latest to demonstrate how Quorn's mycoprotein delivers significant health benefits, including appetite regulation for those with obesity and type 2 diabetes, muscle growth and reducing cholesterol levels.

Journal reference:

Farsi, D.N., et al. (2023) Substituting meat for mycoprotein reduces genotoxicity and increases the abundance of beneficial microbes in the gut: Mycomeat, a randomised crossover control trial. European Journal of Nutrition.


  1. Mark Peterson Mark Peterson United States says:

    Total nonsense to sell supplements,  people are smarter than this and know your game

  2. Louisa Dawes Louisa Dawes United Kingdom says:

    This is a diabolical and biased argument to push plant based food and highly processed plant based food at that. A study on two weeks, are they absolutely crazy!

    There are so many reasons this happened. Where was the meat from, was it grass finished beef or beef from a feed lot? What about testing, were there any changes in their vitamin levels? Did they feel good and satiated in both studys. What ethnic origin were they? What was their health like before?

    I could go on and on but one thing I’ve found recently is that these so called studies are completely bogus. They do not take into account the individual person, their ethnic background, history of health, their very very unique microbiome or anything else it’s an observation and nothing more.

    Humans are meant to eat meat end of, and by that I mean organically holistically raised meat, unpasteurised dairy and clean chemically free fruit and vegetables grown from healthy bacteria soil. If you plonk gmo plants and feed lot meat in your belly you are feeding yourself empty calories. This is why the nutrients in vegetables has plummeted, we have killed the soil of nutrients. Use you common sense. Processed food is processed food, plant based or otherwise. I am also not advocating this so called carnivore culture either, if you doubt plants are necessary read a book called anticancer, quite the eyeopener. Combinations of fruits and vegetables have a MASSIVE impact on our health, we need them for antioxidants and all sorts. We also need meat and organ meat. Anyone telling you otherwise likely has an agenda.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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