15 Jun Will plant-based alternatives meet the dietary requirements of Australian society?
What happens if all Australians swapped their dairy milk for plant-based alternatives? Or, if they replaced some meat-containing meals with meals made of plant-based ingredients? What would the nutritional implications of such a dietary shift be?
These are the questions that a recent study in Nutrients is trying to answer.
As reported in Nutrients, researchers from several Australian universities used a dietary modelling approach to assess the nutritional impacts of two dietary shift scenarios, based on the economic forecasts of the plant-based ‘meat’ and ‘milk’ industries reported in Food Frontiers in 2019. This study examines two hypothetical dietary shift scenarios: Accelerated and Conservative. In the Accelerated scenario, it is hypothesised that the Australian population will eat ~42g more plant-based ‘meat’ alternatives per day and drink 1L of plant-based ‘milk’ per week instead of a corresponding portion of conventional products. Whereas under the Conservative scenario, the current Australian diet will be minimally modified to contain slightly more plant-based ‘meat’ and ‘milk’, while reducing animal-source products.
Results of this dietary modelling study suggested that adoption of the Accelerated diet scenario will lead to suboptimal intake of some key nutrients, such as iodine and vitamin B12 while contributing to an increased intake of iron and sodium. It is worth mentioning that the increased intake of iron is due to the higher consumption of fortified products, while the higher sodium intake can be explained by higher sodium content in some ultra-processed meat and milk analogues. It should also be noted that this study did not consider the bioavailability of nutrients, especially in fortified products. Unlike the Accelerated scenario, the Conservative dietary transitioning scenario did not result in any changes greater than 5% in supplying the key nutrients in an individual’s diet. Thus, in a population like Australia’s, where animal-source products play a major role in supplying key nutrients, minor swaps would have little nutritional impact, whereas larger changes need greater consideration.
This SNippet was written by Dr Mahya Tavan, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the SNi team.