Is Plant-Based Meat Unhealthy?

A new study suggests choosing the right non-meat protein can lead to improved heart health.

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Take the placebo

  • Is plant-based meat unhealthy?

  • Collagen controversy

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Take The Placebo

Can a fake treatment deliver real results? Researchers recently discovered that taking a placebo can still make you feel better even when you know it’s not a real treatment. 

Scientists are starting to test the effectiveness of “open-label placebos.” Instead of one group getting a placebo and the other group getting a real treatment, new studies see what happens when one group is told they are receiving a placebo, and the other group receives no treatment at all. 

In the latest study, participants took a nasal spray and engaged in activities designed to trigger sadness. Despite knowing the treatment was a placebo, those using the spray had reduced their sadness. 

This caused us to look at more research on open-label placebos, and other studies have found similar benefits, such as reduced symptoms of IBS, back pain, and anxiety.

The amazing part? Even though it’s a placebo, scientists notice that taking the pills or sprays creates real changes in your brain. While more research is needed, the power of suggestion can be enough to trigger reactions in your brain that make you feel better. 

So, if you’re struggling with something, it could help to create a positive feedback loop by developing your own placebo effect by doing something that increases your belief. In other words, simply changing behavior by adding a new routine or habit could create psychobiological adjustments that leave you feeling better. Then, your job is to do it consistently and enjoy the benefits of the placebo — which could help you feel or perform better. 

Is Plant-Based “Meat” Unhealthy?

Looking for heart-healthy alternatives to red and processed meat? There might be some good news if you’re trying to prioritize your heart health. 

New research suggests that mycoprotein — a form of meatless protein made from fermented fungus — could improve cardiovascular health. 

The study followed 20 men, and one group was given processed red meat (ground beef, sausage, and ham) for two weeks, followed by a four-week “washout” period, and then two weeks of mycoprotein. Another group did the opposite (starting with mycoprotein). At the end of the study, consuming mycoprotein was associated with reduced waist circumference, total cholesterol, and LDL-C cholesterol.

Plant-based meats have created a lot of confusion because while they offer a “meatless” alternative, they can also be highly processed and highly caloric and lack red meat's micronutrition (vitamins and minerals). So, the bigger picture isn’t necessarily a black-and-white approach; it’s whether the meat or plant-based meat helps you create a diet that is higher in the nutrients that support better health. Both can lead to better health, especially if you watch what’s happening without your body with annual blood tests. 

In the study, the improvements were likely because the mycoprotein was higher in fiber. People assume that going plant-based means fewer calories and saturated fat, but that’s not always true. The ideal plant-based meat would include nutritional powerhouses like beans and legumes, which offer a better nutritional profile.

But, if you’re trying to help the environment, then plant-based options tend to be more environmentally friendly. (Unless you’re talking about Maui Nui, which is ecologically friendly, higher in protein, and lower in saturated fat) 

Collagen Controversy

Collagen supplements have recently enjoyed a spike in popularity, with some people taking them for joint pain and other occasional aches. However, two new studies show that people supplementing with collagen did not experience any improvements in pain, physical function, or tendon growth.

The participants exercised regularly and had no chronic health conditions but did occasionally experience sustained muscle or joint pain. And yet, compared to placebo, there was no additional benefit. 

If you want to use collagen (despite this research), here are two things to consider:

1) The source of collagen. Prior research suggests that the type of collagen you use might influence results. People who took type-II collagen for four months significantly improved joint function. Type-II collagen is digested differently than collagen peptides (what was used in the recent study), and might offer more benefit because it’s better absorbed.

2) Health status. The participants in the more recent research did not have arthritis, and there is some evidence that collagen might be more beneficial for those who do. 

If you use a different type of collagen or have arthritis, it might be worth experimenting to see if it helps with your aches and pains. If not, consider saving your money and skipping collagen supplements if you’re trying to soothe occasional joint and muscle pain.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell