Mycoprotein in diet may reduce risk of bowel cancer and improve gut health

Credit: Unsplash+.

A study led by Northumbria University reveals that substituting red and processed meat with mycoprotein, a fungi-derived meat substitute best known as Quorn, significantly reduces the risk of bowel cancer and enhances gut health.

The study appears in the European Journal of Nutrition.

The randomized clinical trial included 20 healthy males aged 18-50, divided into two phases: a meat phase and a mycoprotein phase, each lasting two weeks with a four-week washout period in between.

During the meat phase, participants consumed 240g of red and processed meat daily. During the mycoprotein phase, they consumed an equivalent amount of mycoprotein.

Stool and urine samples during the mycoprotein phase showed a significant reduction in genotoxins like nitroso compounds and p-cresol—potential markers for cancer risk.

The meat phase led to an increase in these genotoxins. The mycoprotein diet also fostered the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, offering protection against chemically induced tumors and bowel cancer.

Health Risks and Recommendations

Epidemiological data has consistently linked red and processed meat to a higher risk of bowel cancer, leading to dietary recommendations from EATLancet and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to reduce meat consumption.

Dr. Daniel Commane, lead researcher, said, “The study demonstrates that switching from meat to mycoprotein significantly reduces genotoxicity and enhances beneficial gut microbes, suggesting a good alternative to meat in the context of gut health and reducing long-term bowel cancer risk.”

Tim Finnigan, Scientific Advisor for Quorn Foods, added, “This study builds on existing evidence of mycoprotein’s extensive health benefits, from appetite regulation in obesity and type 2 diabetes to muscle growth and lowering cholesterol levels.”

Implications and Future Research

The research team intends to further explore the impact of mycoprotein on gut health, focusing on how the gut utilizes fibers in mycoprotein, such as chitin, beta-glucan, and mannan, and their potential effects on immune system training or cholesterol reduction.

This study adds to the mounting evidence of the health and environmental benefits of shifting from animal-derived proteins to alternative, sustainable options like mycoprotein.

The study was published in the European Journal of Nutrition.