Eating less meat is increasingly seen as a healthier, more ethical option. This is leading to growing numbers of flexitarian consumers looking for plant-based meat alternatives (PBMAs) to replace at least some of the animal meat they consume. Popular PBMA products amongst flexitarians, including plant-based mince, burgers, sausages and meatballs, are often perceived as low-quality, ultra-processed foods. However, we argue that the mere industrial processing of ingredients of plant origin does not make a PBMA product ultra-processed by default. To test our hypothesis, we conducted a randomised controlled trial to assess the changes to the gut microbiota of a group of 20 participants who replaced several meat-containing meals per week with meals cooked with PBMA products and compared these changes to those experienced by a size-matched control. Stool samples were subjected to 16S rRNA sequencing. The resulting raw data was analysed in a compositionality-aware manner, using a range of innovative...

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