Thinking of switching to Quorn? It could help lower bad cholesterol by 10%

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Research has shown that mycoprotein, which is a fungal-derived food source rich in fiber and protein, is effective in reducing serum cholesterol concentrations. However, the validity of these findings in home-based settings remains to be established.

Study: A four-week dietary intervention with mycoprotein-containing food products reduces serum cholesterol concentrations in community-dwelling, overweight adults: A randomised controlled trial. Image Credit: DronG/Shutterstock.com
Study: A four-week dietary intervention with mycoprotein-containing food products reduces serum cholesterol concentrations in community-dwelling, overweight adults: A randomised controlled trial. Image Credit: DronG/Shutterstock.com

A new Clinical Nutrition* study investigated whether a home-based and remotely-delivered dietary intervention containing mycoprotein could influence cholesterol and other biomarkers of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in overweight adults. 

Background

CVD is the leading cause of mortality from non-communicable and chronic diseases. Lifestyle changes, including physical activity and/or healthier eating, can mitigate many of the risk factors associated with CVD, such as high body mass index (BMI), hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycemia, and hyperinsulinemia.

Dietary interventions are viable approaches to reduce CVD risk, owing to favorable clinical outcomes, broader commercial and societal feasibility, and higher patient/practitioner preference. However, they need to be easy to implement to ensure adherence. 

Mycoprotein, which is produced by the continuous fermentation of Fusarium venenatum, aids in the reduction of hypercholesterolemia. To evaluate real-world feasibility and efficacy, it is prudent to validate this observation in a home-based setting.

About the study

The study hypothesis was the administration of daily home consumption of mycoprotein-containing meat-replacement products for four weeks by individuals with high BMI, and hypercholesterolemia would reduce glucose, circulating cholesterol, and c-peptide concentrations relative to the daily consumption of meat and fish products. The intervention was applied fully remotely during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic lockdown in the UK.

Individuals (N=72) in a free-living setting were randomized into a controlled, parallel-group trial. They received home deliveries of either mycoprotein-containing food products (MYC) or meat/fish control products (CON) for four weeks. Fingertip blood samples were collected before and after the dietary intervention and analyzed for concentrations of blood glucose, serum lipids, and c-peptide.

Study findings

The present study demonstrated that the dietary intervention successfully reduced total circulating cholesterol (TC) concentrations in hypercholesterolaemic and overweight adults relative to the control. A parallel reduction in non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-c), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c), post-prandial and post-absorptive glycemia, and c-peptide concentrations was noted. 

Prior research had already documented the benefits of daily mycoprotein consumption under strictly controlled laboratory conditions. It was essential to validate these findings in a home-based setting as multiple factors, such as alcohol consumption, caffeine consumption, and so on, could compromise the overall effectiveness of the intervention. Moreover, adherence is governed by several factors, which could be socioeconomic, personal, or geographic. 

The dietary intervention was seen to reduce serum TC by about 6%, relative to the control, where no change was observed. LDL-c and non-HDL-c were seen to be lower by about 10% and 6%, respectively. Complementing the previous lab-based research, these findings suggest that mycoprotein-containing products can be easily introduced into plant-based or omnivorous diets to lower cholesterol levels effectively.

It was also mentioned that the body mass was similar between MYC and CON conditions. The daily saturated fat intake remained unchanged, although the MYC group consumed about 2g less saturated fat on a daily basis. It is likely that mycoprotein increases fiber intake and, thereby, lowers circulating TC concentrations. In fact, fiber was the only dietary variable that changed with mycoprotein consumption. 

Higher blood glucose levels and impaired insulin sensitivity are also major risk factors for CVD. This study showed that blood glucose and c-peptide concentrations were lower by about 13% and 27%, respectively, after the dietary intervention. This could be due to the AMPK-activated mechanisms by the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

Conclusions

In sum, the data collected here document the efficacy of a tightly controlled nutritional intervention applied remotely within the community in a home-based setting. Consumption of mycoprotein-containing food products reduced blood glucose, circulating cholesterol, and c-peptide concentrations in adults who are more vulnerable to the risk of CVD.

Concerning the limitations of the study, varying postal transit times while transporting blood samples and differing ability to collect samples may have introduced additional unaccounted variation. However, the effect of this on the results is likely to be negligible as the beneficial effect of mycoprotein has been documented in prior research in lab-based settings. 

Additionally, this study was conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown phase. The results observed here could have been influenced by the direct effect of infection and the indirect effect due to modification of lifestyle behaviors. These factors could potentially explain the rise in c-peptide and blood glucose levels in the control group during the intervention period. 

*Conflict of Interest

To be transparent with our readership, we are informing you that the authors have declared conflicts of interest. Please refer to the original paper for more details. 

Journal reference:
Dr. Priyom Bose

Written by

Dr. Priyom Bose

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

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