Levels of LDL cholesterol—sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol—are significantly lower when a person swaps their protein from animal-based meat to plant-based meat, according to a new study conducted by Stanford University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Called the “SWAP-MEAT Study,” the research consisted of an eight-week study of 36 participants, who received plant and animal products in two phases, dietary counseling, lab assessments, microbiome assessments, and anthropometric measurements.

The results showed that levels of LDL cholesterol dropped on average 10 milligrams per deciliter, which is both statistically and clinically significant, in participants who transitioned from animal meat to plant-based meat protein sources. Those participants lost an average of two pounds during the plant-based portion of the study, and plant-based meats improved cardiovascular disease risk factors such as Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels. Researchers also found similar sodium intake and blood pressure levels between the animal-based and plant-based phases of the study, debunking the myth that consuming plant-based meats results in higher sodium intake. 

“Among generally healthy adults, contrasting plant with animal intake, while keeping all other dietary components similar, the plant products improved several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including TMAO; there were no adverse effects on risk factors from the plant products,” the study concluded. 

The study was the first clinical trial of Beyond Meat plant-based products and was funded by an unrestricted gift from the company; however, Beyond Meat was not involved in designing or conducting the study and did not participate in data analysis.

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