WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A new clinical trial shows that eating crickets can boost the growth of good gut bacteria and may also reduce inflammation in the body.
- Edible insects are now considered as a “sustainable, environmentally friendly protein source compared to traditional livestock.”
- The study hopes to promote insects as a more “mainstream food” in the U.S.
“There is a lot of interest right now in edible insects,” according to Valerie Stull, lead author of a pioneering clinical study that established the beneficial and sustainable effects of cricket consumption to gut health.
Published in the journal Scientific Environmental Studies, the results disclosed that crickets are a viable source of protein, vitamins and healthy fats. Crickets also support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and may reduce inflammations in the body. Like other insects, crickets contain chitinous fiber in their exoskeletons that are different from the dietary fiber in vegetables, fruits and grains.
With global population on the rise which makes traditional livestock-raising extremely difficult on the environment, insects offer a healthier option than meat. Although people may find the idea of eating insects revolting, an estimate of over 2 billion people worldwide regularly consume insects.
In fact, countries like Zambia eat crunchy and oily snacks of flying termites, while Thailand loves snacking on grasshoppers, crickets and woodworms and some parts in Southern Africa rely on termites as a source of protein, among others.
Stull and her team recruited 20 healthy adults between ages 18-48 years old. Half of the group ate a muffin and shake containing 25 grams of powdered crickets for breakfast, while the other half ate a breakfast without crickets.
A two-week period of regular cricket-free diet followed to “reset” the body. This was followed by another 2 weeks where the breakfasts of both groups were switched. Neither the participants nor the researchers know which group was consuming the cricket infused diet.
Blood and stool samples were taken from the participants along with filled out gastrointestinal questionnaires that were given prior the testing and after each 2-week periods of eating crickets. The blood samples were tested for various health measures such as enzymes linked to liver function, while the fecal samples were tested for changes in the microbiota and inflammatory chemicals in the gastrointestinal tract.
None of the participants reported significant gastrointestinal changes or side effect, while the researchers found no overall changes in either the gastrointestinal tract or the overall microbial composition.
Instead, an increase in the metabolic enzyme linked with gut health and a reduction of TNF-Alpha, an inflammatory protein in blood plasma was discovered. This protein has been associated with cancer, major depression, Alzheimer’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Moreover, there was an average of 5.7 fold increase of Bifidobacterium animalis, the beneficial gut bacteria in the diet infused with cricket flour. This strain has been linked to improved gut health and increased immune response.
Although further research needs to be undertaken to determine results replication, Stull, who has eaten insects herself, believes this study is something worth looking forward to when promoting insects as a sustainable food source.
Furthermore, she hopes that one day insects will soon be introduced to the mainstream food in the U.S.
Source: Science Daily