Don't be a silly sausage with diets – soya banger can beat the bulge
IT IS the Mount Everest of the health campaigner – persuading Scottish men to give up their love affair with fried sausage and bacon, fatty mince, and giant plates of steak.
But a team of researchers at the Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, believe they may have come up with a healthy alternative that just might work – because they are proving it is as tasty and filling as the real thing.
Nutrition and health experts have put together a panel of 16 well-fed, normally carnivorous men to try out a new diet featuring nothing more meaty than a soya sausage.
Scientists have found that if they eat high-protein foods then people do not get as hungry. The exact reason is not known, but it is thought a protein triggers particular signals from the gut to the brain that it is full. The weight lost on a high-protein diet is fat instead of muscle or water.
And if healthier high protein food does the same thing then it could be the Holy Grail of the diet world – hence the soya sausages, bacon and meatballs.
Dr Alex Johnstone, from the Rowett's Metabolic Health Group, is running experiments to see if vegetable-based proteins such as soya work as well as dairy and meat. If successful it could result in a high-protein weight loss plan diet that is healthier and more environmentally-friendly.
Johnstone's group of "traditional Scottish meat-eating men" are currently on a diet made up of around 30 per cent protein. The diet is not low carb, like plans such as the Atkins diet, but contains moderate amounts of carbohydrate at each meal such as rice, bread or pasta as well as meat and dairy substitutes such as soya meatballs or bacon and soya milk, margarine, bread and yoghurts.
For two weeks they eat meat and for a further two a vegetarian diet. So far they have lost up to a stone each in a month but it is the effect on their appetite that Johnstone is most interested in.
She said: "One of the main reasons why people fail to lose weight is because of hunger, so how can we design diets in order to achieve that.
"High-protein diets don't have to be low in carbs. I am looking at whether you can have the same control of appetite from vegetarian sources as from meat, which would be good for health. I want to find out if you can get the same modification of appetite from a vegetarian source as from a meat source."
She added: "We ask them how hungry they feel every waking hour. They come in and get their breakfast made for them and scoot away with a packed lunch and dinner. They have really enjoyed the study and as traditional Scottish meat-eating men were quite surprised that the vegetarian diets were extremely palatable and some will go on to make a conscious choice to make changes in their own diet."
Volunteer David Bremner, a 34-year-old research technician, lost around 5lbs during a week-long pilot of the trial. Bremner, who normally eats meat, said he enjoyed the diet and did not find himself going too hungry.
He said: "I thought it was very nice, but probably better if you were more used to eating a vegetarian diet.
"I didn't find the hunger too bad and felt as satisfied. It wasn't an unpleasant taste and I did actually like the soya sausages. I may consider buying the Lincolnshire soya sausages again.
"I think it would be OK for other people so long as they did not go into it with the notion it will taste the same as meat. You have to approach it with an open mind."
Yesterday some of Scotland's leading chefs cast doubt on whether soya would ever replace meat in the Scottish diet.
Michelin-starred chef Martin Wishart said: "Although I can imagine people buying and trying it, I cannot imagine it ever replacing meat across the board."
Another Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin said: "I don't think Scotland will entertain it. It will have to become a different country before they can replace a nice Aberdeen Angus steak with soya alternatives."
"I do think that it's a really interesting product, but it does not fit the British taste of food yet. We don't really treat it as a real flavour."
High-protein diets have been the subject of some controversy, but the concerns have largely centred on those which severely restrict carbohydrates.
Critics say that by eliminating carbohydrates, people eliminate a lot of vitamin-rich foods and fibre in their diet which can lead to other health issues in the future.
With less carbohydrates the body is forced to start burning fat instead, a state which is called ketosis.
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