Edible insects are known to be rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. A new study reveals that consuming crickets also promoted the growth of good gut bacteria and reduces inflammation in the body.
Rising Interest In Edible Insects
According to Valerie Stull of the University of Wisconsin, lead author of a recently published study, many people from the United States and Europe are now getting interested in edible insects because of their high protein content and more sustainable and environment-friendly production method. Naturally, not everybody is too keen on eating insects, so such produce now comes in friendlier powder form.
The nutrient composition of insects is already known, but to test the potential health impacts of insect consumption, a clinical study was conducted to see just how consuming insects can actually affect the body. For the study, researchers focused on crickets, for it is not only high in protein content but also high in chitin and other fibers that are beneficial to gut health.
Cricket Powder Clinical Trial
For 14 days, 20 healthy men and women between 18 and 48 years old were subjected to a breakfast of either a control meal or a meal that contains 25 grams of cricket powder blended into the food or drink. This was followed by a week of "washout period" wherein the participants ate a normal diet, after which the meal plans were switched, in that the participants who previously had the control were given the meals with cricket powder, and the ones who previously had the cricket powder meals were given the control.
Each participant was their own control, and none of the researchers knew which participant was on which diet at a particular point in the duration of the trial. They collected blood and stool samples as well as gastrointestinal questionnaires before the test began, right after the first two-week period and right after the second two-week period.
Interestingly, participants reported no side effects whatsoever, and researchers noted no change in microbial composition and gut inflammation. What they did find was an increase in beneficial gut bacteria and in an enzyme linked to good gut health, as well as a decrease in an inflammatory blood protein linked to cancer and depression.
That said, researchers note that their study is a small but important one that may be considered when promoting insects as a food source.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Many people are still hesitant about the idea of eating insects, but millions of people worldwide actually do eat insects as a regular and healthy part of their diets. In recent years, however, many people have also explored the idea of consuming insects in place of, or perhaps in addition to, livestock as a source of protein. In fact, just last May, the idea of having cockroach milk as the next superfood was bounced around the internet, as it is said to be richer in protein and nutrients as compared to regular milk.
According to Stull, while the insects are not yet a common food choice in the United States, the rise in the number of edible insect producers may just help promote edible insects as a more mainstream food item.
“Food is very tied to culture, and 20 or 30 years ago, no one in the U.S. was eating sushi because we thought it was disgusting, but now you can get it at a gas station in Nebraska,” Stull says.