What Is the Impossible Burger, and Is It Healthy?
By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based alternative to traditional meat-based burgers. It's said to mimic the flavor, aroma, and texture of beef.
Some claim that the Impossible Burger is more nutritious and environmentally friendly than beef-based burgers. Others argue that certain ingredients in the Impossible Burger may not be optimal for your health.
This article explains what the Impossible Burger is, what it's made of, and whether it's nutritionally superior to beef-based burgers.
What is the Impossible Burger?
The Impossible Burger was created by Impossible Foods, a company founded by Patrick O. Brown in 2011.
Brown is a scientist and professor emeritus at Stanford University in California. He holds a medical degree and a Ph.D. and has worked as a research scientist for many years.
Through conferences, Brown tried raising awareness about how using animals for food harms the environment. However, this had little impact, so he created a business that produced plant-based alternatives to popular animal products.
Its signature product — the Impossible Burger — aims to perfectly mimic the taste of beef.
Impossible Burger Ingredients
Using carefully selected ingredients, Impossible Foods created a plant-based burger that some say perfectly resembles the taste, aroma, and texture of beef.
The original Impossible Burger contains the following ingredients:
Water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, 2% or less of leghemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, konjac gum, xanthan gum, soy protein isolate, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12.
In 2019, the company introduced a new recipe featuring the following changes:
- uses soy protein instead of wheat protein, making it gluten-free
- contains a plant-based culinary binder called methylcellulose to improve texture
- replaced a portion of the coconut oil with sunflower oil to reduce saturated fat content
Heme, or soy leghemoglobin, is the ingredient said to set the Impossible Burger apart from other plant-based burgers. It adds to the flavor and color of the burger and makes it "bleed" like a beef burger does when cut.
It's also perhaps the most controversial ingredient in the Impossible Burger.
Unlike the heme found in beef, the heme in the Impossible Burger is genetically engineered by adding soy protein to genetically engineered yeast (1).
Though Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some raise concern about its potential health effects (2).
Currently, the Impossible Burger is only available at certain restaurants and fast food establishments in the United States, Hong Kong, and Macau. The company also plans to sell the Impossible Burger in U.S. grocery stores from 2019.
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger option said to replicate the flavor, texture, and aroma of beef.
Impossible Burger Nutrition
There are nutritional differences between the Impossible Burger and beef-based burgers.
Impossible Burgers are significantly lower in protein than beef-based burgers, yet they contain more fiber. Impossible Burgers are also higher in fat and contain carbohydrates, while beef burgers do not contain any carbs.
Furthermore, the Impossible Burger beats beef in many vitamin and mineral categories like folate, B12, thiamine, and iron.
However, it's important to note that these nutrients are added to the product, unlike the nutrients found in beef.
Impossible Burgers also contain a high amount of added salt, packing in 16% of the daily value for sodium in one 4-ounce (113-gram) serving.
The Impossible Burger is higher in certain vitamins and minerals than beef burgers, as they are added during processing. Impossible Burgers are also higher in salt and carbohydrates.
Impossible Burger Benefits
Impossible Burgers offer several health benefits.
High in Important Nutrients
The Impossible Burger contains an impressive amount of nutrients, as vitamins and minerals like iron, thiamine, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 are added during processing.
Some of these nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, and zinc, are especially important for those following plant-based diets, including vegans and vegetarians.
What really sets the Impossible Burger apart from other vegan and vegetarian foods enriched with iron is that it provides heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed by your body than the non-heme iron you get from plant foods.
Moreover, soy leghemoglobin has been shown to have an equivalent bioavailability to the iron found in meat, making it a potentially important source of highly absorbable iron for those who don't consume animal products (8).
The iron in the Impossible Burger has been approved by the FDA for use in food, although it's long-term safety is still unknown.
Suitable for Plant-Based Diets
The Impossible Burger is a good choice if you enjoy the taste of beef burgers but want to limit your intake of animal products.
Given that Impossible Burgers are offered at certain restaurants and fast food establishments, it's a tasty and easy, on-the-go meal choice for those following plant-based diets.
May Be a More Environmentally-Friendly Choice
The Impossible Burger website claims that producing this plant-based burger uses roughly 75% less water, generates 87% fewer greenhouse gasses, and requires 95% less land than producing conventional ground beef from cows (9).
Indeed, research shows that cattle farming is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions in the livestock industry (10).
Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming contribute to global warming. This leads many climate experts to recommend that people eat a more plant-based diet in order to mitigate pressure on the environment (11, 12).
The Impossible Burger is an environmentally-friendly food packed with nutrients that vegan and vegetarian diets often lack, such as iron and vitamin B12.
Impossible Burger Precautions
Although the Impossible Burger offers some benefits, there are some downsides to consider as well.
Concerns Over Plant-Based Heme
Although soy leghemoglobin — the heme used in Impossible Burgers — was deemed GRAS by the FDA, its long-term safety is still unknown.
Current studies on soy leghemoglobin have only been conducted in animals and over short periods.
For example, a 28-day study in rats found that those fed the equivalent of 750 mg/kg per day of soy leghemoglobin, which is over 100 times greater than the 90th percentile estimated daily intake in humans, had no adverse effects (13).
However, it's currently unknown whether it's safe for humans to eat this man-made compound over longer periods.
Contains Potentially Allergenic Ingredients
The original Impossible Burger recipe contains wheat and soy, both of which are common food allergens.
In fact, 1% of the world's population has celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to gluten-containing grains.
What's more, it's thought that 0.5–13% of the general population has non-celiac gluten sensitivity — an intolerance to gluten that results in unpleasant symptoms like headache and intestinal issues (14).
While the new Impossible Burger recipe has swapped gluten-containing wheat protein for soy protein, the burger still contains ingredients that some people can't tolerate.
Concerns Over GMOs
Impossible Foods does not hide the fact that the Impossible Burger contains genetically modified (GMO) ingredients like soy leghemoglobin and soy protein.
Most scientists agree that GMO foods are safe. However, some are concerned about the use of GMO crops that are resistant to commonly used herbicides like glyphosate and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) (16).
Glyphosate has been linked to potentially harmful effects on humans, plants, and animals, leading many experts to demand further research on the possible hazards of this herbicide to both humans and the environment (17, 18, 19).
Additionally, some studies have linked exposure to 2,4-D with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer (22).
There are several downsides to the Impossible Burger, including its content of potentially allergenic ingredients and the use of GMO ingredients like soy leghemoglobin.
Is the Impossible Burger Healthy?
If taste and convenience are your only concerns, the Impossible Burger may be a good choice. However, if you want to eat a more nutritious plant-based burger, consider a more whole-food-based veggie burger.
There Are Healthier Plant-Based Burger Options
The Impossible Burger contains mostly soy or wheat protein, as well as added preservatives, salt, flavorings, and fillers to enhance its taste, shelf life, and texture.
Although these ingredients are considered natural, they aren't necessary for a healthy diet, and some people prefer to avoid them.
Another downside to the Impossible Burger is that any restaurant can put their own spin on it, meaning that other ingredients — aside from those listed on the official website — may be present in the final food product.
Other veggie burgers on the market usually contain similar ingredients. However, some contain more whole-food-based ingredients like lentils, quinoa, hemp, and black beans.
Fortunately, you can make healthier and more whole-food-based veggie burgers at home. Delicious plant- and nutrient-dense burger recipes can be found online and are often based on plant proteins like beans, grains, and nuts.
Plus, many recipes pack in fresh vegetables like sweet potato, onions, cauliflower, leafy greens, and spices to further elevate the nutritional benefits of the final dish.
The heme iron in the Impossible Burger is more bioavailable than non-heme iron in plant foods.
Luckily, if you eat a plant-based diet, you can instead meet your iron needs by eating nutrient-dense whole foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. Alternatively, you can take iron supplements.
Additionally, pairing plant-based iron sources with foods rich in vitamin C, as well as soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains and legumes before eating them, are simple ways to naturally enhance the absorption of non-heme iron (23, 24).
While the Impossible Burger may be a good option for vegans and vegetarians on the go, you can make healthier plant-based burgers at home.
The Bottom Line
The Impossible Burger has made headlines for its impressive similarity to beef-based burgers.
It boasts high protein, vitamin, and mineral contents, including a genetically engineered, plant-based source of heme iron known as soy leghemoglobin.
However, there are concerns about some of its ingredients. These include soy hemoglobin and potentially allergenic protein sources like gluten and soy.
Although the Impossible Burger may be a tasty and convenient option on the go, you can make more nutritious plant-based burgers from whole-food ingredients at home.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
On Monday and Tuesday of the week that President Donald Trump held his first rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the county reported 76 and 96 new coronavirus cases respectively, according to POLITICO. This week, the county broke its new case record Monday with 261 cases and reported a further 206 cases on Tuesday. Now, Tulsa's top public health official thinks the rally and counterprotest "likely contributed" to the surge.
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By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach
The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.
When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.
We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.
Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.
Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.
To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.
Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.
The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.
Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.
Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?
The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.
Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome
While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.
It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.
Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.
Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.
Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.
Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.
Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
One of the initial reasons social distancing guidelines were put in place was to allow the healthcare system to adapt to a surge in patients since there was a critical shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. In fact, masks that were designed for single-use were reused for an entire week in some hospitals.
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By Jake Johnson
Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.
"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."
The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."
In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."
"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."
Today the 6 Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces are unveiling final language. The Climate Task Force accomplished a gr… https://t.co/gz3broq2qe— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1594240617.0
The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.
Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."
"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."
Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."
"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.
On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.
Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.
"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."
We rein in #pharma's greed by: 1) Allowing Medicare to FINALLY negotiate Rx drugs FOR ALL AMERICANS 2) Using Rx d… https://t.co/6k9iUCLMp7— Abdul El-Sayed (@Abdul El-Sayed)1594238411.0
Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."
Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."
"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."
"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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