Since 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified hot dogs—and other types of processed and red meats—as class 1 carcinogens, a category these animal products share with tobacco and asbestos due to their proven links to cancer. 

If you’re craving a juicy hot dog but don’t want to throw health precautions to the wind, there are an increasing number of plant-based meat options that can hit the spot, including the newest product from Impossible Foods.

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This week, the company behind the Impossible Burger is announcing the launch of the Impossible Hot Dog, which will begin rolling out to grocery stores and restaurants next year.

Heart-healthier hot dogs?

The Impossible Hot Dog boasts 50-percent less saturated fat and double the protein (12 grams per serving) than its animal-derived counterpart. Plus, because it’s plant-based, the Impossible Dog does not contain any cholesterol.

“Hot dogs are an undeniably classic part of American culture and not to mention, they’re a burger’s best friend. It’s long been a priority to add them to our product portfolio,” Peter McGuinness, CEO and President of Impossible Foods, said in a statement sent to VegNews. “Our adaptation replicates that quintessential hot dog taste, while offering consumers a nutrient-dense product that’s better for the planet.”

“We want people to see that there’s really no compromise when you choose Impossible products,” McGuinness said. “It’s as easy as throwing an Impossible Hot Dog on the grill—right next to an Impossible Burger.”

The release of the Impossible Hot Dog, its seventh new product in the last 12 months, comes after Impossible Foods received a Heart-Check Food Certification from the American Heart Association for its Impossible Beef Lite—the second plant-based meat, next to Beyond Steak, to receive the certification. And research continues to point to the health benefits of directly replacing animal meat with plant-based alternatives.

Swapping out meat with plants

One recent study, sponsored by the WHO and published in The Lancet Regional Health—Europe, delves into the impact of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) on health, particularly concerning multimorbidity involving cancer and cardiometabolic diseases.

The study analyzed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, involving 266,666 participants free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes at recruitment. The findings revealed that higher consumption of UPFs, particularly animal-based products and artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages, was associated with an increased risk of multimorbidity. Interestingly, plant-based alternatives did not show a similar risk association.

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Another recent study published in BMC Medicine highlights the health benefits of substituting animal-based foods with plant-based alternatives. Researchers conducted a thorough analysis of 37 publications involving 24 cohorts to examine the impact of such dietary changes on cardiometabolic health and all-cause mortality. 

The findings here reveal a notable decrease in the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality when foods such as processed meat, eggs, and butter are replaced with plant-based foods such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, and olive oil. 

Vegan diet wins for twins

A third study, conducted by researchers at Stanford Medicine, pitted plant-based and omnivore diets against each other in a real-world scenario using identical twins. This study is pivotal because it controls for genetic differences by using identical twins who share similar upbringings and lifestyles.

The research revealed that transitioning to a vegan diet can lead to improvements in cardiovascular health in as little as eight weeks. 

Conducted from May to July 2022, the trial involved 44 participants—22 pairs of identical twins—chosen from the Stanford Twin Registry. Each twin was assigned either a vegan or omnivore diet, both of which included plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruit, and whole grains. While the vegan diet excluded all meat and animal products, the omnivore diet included various animal-sourced foods. 

The findings indicated that those on the vegan diet had significantly lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), insulin, and body weight compared to their omnivore counterparts, all markers associated with better cardiovascular health. 

The vegan group also exhibited about a 20-percent decrease in fasting insulin and lost an average of 4.2 more pounds than the omnivore group.

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Christopher Gardner, PhD, the study’s senior author, stressed the importance of reducing saturated fats, increasing dietary fiber, and weight loss for cardiovascular health, all achieved through the vegan diet. Gardner also noted the additional benefits of a vegan diet, such as promoting gut health and slowing aging. 

“Our study used a generalizable diet that is accessible to anyone, because 21 out of the 22 vegans followed through with the diet,” Gardner, who is a professor at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in a statement. 

“This suggests that anyone who chooses a vegan diet can improve their long-term health in two months, with the most change seen in the first month,” Gardner said. 

If you’re looking to try a plant-based swap for animal meat, Impossible Foods is hosting a one-day pop-up event in midtown Manhattan on December 16 where it will give out free samples of its new Impossible Hot Dogs.

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