Plant-based proteins have exploded into the public consciousness in recent years, with proponents touting their benefits for the environment and animal welfare. But are these products good for consumers?
To try and quantify the impact on human health, Pinduoduo, China’s leading agricultural platform, has teamed up with the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) to conduct a study that aims to determine the nutritional impact of replacing traditional animal proteins with plant-based proteins.
This study will be the first of its kind to focus specifically on novel plant-based meats and their impact on human health. This sets it apart from broader research looking at the health impact of plant-based diets. As these novel foods become more commonplace, consumer education and information about nutrition also needs to keep up. Pinduoduo and SIFBI signed the research project agreement on 26th May.
"It's often said that we are what we eat, but increasingly, we have come to realize that our planet also depends on what and how we eat," said Xin Yi Lim, Executive Director of Sustainability and Agricultural Impact at Pinduoduo. "Personal decisions about food and diet have a collective impact on public health and the environment. We hope that by facilitating and sharing nutritional research, we can all make more informed decisions that are right by us and the environment.”
The nutrition study marks the second collaboration between Pinduoduo and SIFBI, part of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Last year, the two parties embarked on a project to develop a more portable and lower-cost test for pesticide residues for produce, with the aim of improving consumer confidence and food safety.
Pinduoduo sold more than $40 billion worth of agricultural products in China through its marketplace last year. The research projects are part of its broader objective to safeguard the quality and safety of the food bought by the 824 million consumers who shop on its platform.
By conducting the plant-based protein nutrition research in multiracial Singapore, researchers will be able to study whether different ethnic groups respond differently to plant-based novel proteins. Singapore also has a growing range of plant-based protein products available.
“As Asian consumers become more educated and affluent, and hence demand more plant-based proteins, many food and nutrition companies are responding by developing alternative protein food products," said Professor Christiani Jeyakumar Henry, Senior Advisor at SIFBI and Principal Investigator for the study. "Human nutrition is a complex field, and we need more studies that look holistically at the nutritional impact of these food products over time, to inform the food industry of its potential benefits or the need for reformulation."
In the coming months, SIFBI researchers will survey subjects in Singapore for comparative studies examining the nutritional and health impacts of substituting traditional animal proteins with plant-based proteins over various time periods.