Nutritional habits of European youngsters
The HELENA study (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) studied the relation between the intake of plant-based and animal-based protein and excess weight and obesity in young people (13-17 yrs old).
It shows that in young people with the highest intake of animal-based protein, the risk of eoverweight or obesity is higher than in young people with a low intake. It also shows that the amount of body fat, for boys as well as for girls, decreases as the intake of plant protein increases.
In all, 1,804 youngsters took part in this European study in which their nutritional habits and their body weight were recorded.
The total protein intake amounted to an average of 96 grams per day, of which the greater part (60% or 58 grams per day) was of animal origin. The total protein intake contributed to 15.8% of the daily energy intake. This exceeds the total protein intake recommended by the World Health Organisation (10 to 15% of the energy intake). Plant-based protein contributes to only 6% of the total energy intake whilst animal-based protein provides 10% of the total energy.
The calculations which have been done showed that protein intake was lower in underweight and higher in overweight adolescents. Furthermore, a stronger inverse relation between the intake of plant protein and the BMI-z score and the body fat could be shown, compared to animal protein intake. BMI and body fat were positively associated with energy intake from animal protein.
The fight against overweight
Overweight and obesity are a worldwide problem. Being overweight constitutes an important risk factor in developing chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes type 2. A varied plant-based nutrition based on soy may contribute to a better proportion of plant-based protein in relation to animal-based protein.
“This large European study underlines clearly the positive effect of the plant protein intake as a preventive measure to avoid overnutrition and obesity”, confirms Professor Kurt Widhalm, Departement of pediatrics, in Vienna, Austria.
Reference: Dietary animal and plant protein intakes and their associations with obesity and cardio-metabolic indicators in European adolescents: the HELENA cross-sectional study (2015)