Exploring Health-Promoting Attributes of Plant Proteins as a Functional Ingredient for the Food Sector: A Systematic Review of Human Interventional Studies

Marta Lonnie, Ieva Laurie, Madeleine Myers, Graham Horgan, Wendy R Russell, Alexandra M Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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The potential beneficial effects of plant-based diets on human health have been extensively studied. However, the evidence regarding the health effects of extracted plant-based proteins as functional ingredients, other than soya, is scarce. The aim of this review was to compile evidence on the effects of extracted protein from a wide range of traditional and novel plant sources on glycemic responses, appetite, body weight, metabolic, cardiovascular and muscle health. A comprehensive search of PubMed, EMBASE and The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) was conducted through 23 and 27 March 2020 for randomized controlled trials that featured any of the following 18 plant protein sources: alfalfa, duckweed, buckwheat, chickpea, fava bean, hemp, lentil, lupin, mushroom, oat, pea, potato, pumpkin, quinoa, rapeseed, rice, sacha inchi, sunflower. Only interventions that investigated concentrated, isolated or hydrolysed forms of dietary protein were included. Searched health outcome measures were: change in blood glucose, insulin, satiety hormones concentration, subjective assessment of appetite/satiety, change in blood lipids concentration, blood pressure, body weight and muscle health parameters. Acute and sub-chronic studies were considered for inclusion. Applying the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) approach we identified 1190 records. Twenty-six studies met the inclusion criteria. Plant protein sources used in interventions were most often pea (n = 16), followed by lupin (n = 4), fava bean (n = 2), rice (n = 2), oat (n = 2), hemp (n = 2) and lentil (n = 1). Satiety and postprandial glycemic response were the most frequently reported health outcomes (n = 18), followed by blood lipids (n = 6), muscle health (n = 5), body weight (n = 5) and blood pressure (n = 4). No studies on the remaining plant proteins in the extracted form were identified through the search. Most studies confirmed the health-promoting effect of identified extracted plant protein sources across glycemic, appetite, cardiovascular and muscular outcomes when compared to baseline or non-protein control. However, the current evidence is still not sufficient to formulate explicit dietary recommendations. In general, the effects of plant protein were comparable (but not superior) to protein originating from animals. This is still a promising finding, suggesting that the desired health effects can be achieved with more sustainable, plant alternatives. More methodologically homogenous research is needed to formulate and validate evidence-based health claims for plant protein ingredients. The relevance of these findings are discussed for the food sector with supporting market trends.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2291
Number of pages29
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2020


  • dietary protein
  • plant protein
  • sustainable protein
  • cardiovascular
  • metabolic
  • blood pressure
  • weight loss
  • diabetes
  • muscle
  • Cardiovascular
  • Weight loss
  • Dietary protein
  • Metabolic
  • Sustainable protein
  • Plant protein
  • Blood pressure
  • Muscle
  • Diabetes


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