They’ve long been heralded as the protein-rich, environmentally friendly, meat-alternative of the future, but new research has discovered their positive benefits for human microbiome. The double-blind, randomised, crossover clinical trial – published in the journal Scientific Reports – followed 20 healthy men and women over a fortnight. During that time, half of the group ate a breakfast of muffins or smoothies containing 25 grams of powdered cricket meal, while the other half ate a regular breakfast.
Researchers analysed their blood and stool samples, as well as their answers to a questionnaire about their gastrointestinal health and habits, filled out before and after the trial. Participants who ate the edible insects showed an increase in a metabolic enzyme linked to good gut health, and a reduction in an inflammatory protein in the blood, which has been associated with depression and cancer.
The paper highlights that crickets and other edible insects contain chitin – a fibre different to the dietary fibre found in fruits and vegetables. It serves as a prebiotic (or food source) for probiotics (good bacteria) in the digestive system.
Before you turn your nose up at the idea of adding some creepy crawlies to your meal prep, edible insects are regularly consumed by around two billion people across 80 per cent of the world's population and Western attitudes towards the frowned upon fare are slowly changing. Stats show that the commercial industry of edible insects is set to grow more than 40 per cent by 2023.
“Food is very tied to culture, and 20 or 30 years ago, no one in the US was eating sushi because we thought it was disgusting, but now you can get it at a gas station in Nebraska,” lead author Valerie Stull said.