Crickets are considered an obscure, yet sustainable protein source in the Western world compared to traditional livestock. Researchers from the University of Madison-Wisconsin in the United States found that eating crickets is safe, and may even improve gut health in healthy adults.
Global food security is threatened by the growing global population and pressures of climate change. Raising livestock is responsible for approximately 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions alone. Emission of greenhouse gases contributes to the pervasive problem of climate change, which restricts the number of crops that can be produced globally. These problems will not be resolved in the near future, so it is imperative to adopt a sustainable protein source. Eating crickets may be a sustainable protein source for humans and benefit the environment.
Two billion people worldwide eat insects regularly
People have eaten insects throughout history in many cultures, as insects are a great source of fiber, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Currently, 2 billion people in 130 countries worldwide consume edible insects regularly. Raising edible insects emits fewer greenhouse gases, and requires less land, water, and feed to thrive than traditional livestock. Although edible insects like crickets are a part of billions of people’s regular diets, not much is known about edible insects apart from the nutritional properties.
In a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Madison-Wisconsin in the United States aimed to determine how eating crickets impacts the gut microbiome. The composition of the human gut microbiome is largely determined by the amount and type of insoluble fiber that we eat and is known to influence normal human physiology, metabolism, immune function, energy, and mood. Crickets are high in the insoluble fiber, chitin, that could selectively promote the growth of beneficial bacterial species in the gut, although this relationship is not understood.
Participants in the study consumed 25 grams per day of commercially available 100% whole cricket powder in their breakfast every day for two weeks, and a control breakfast for another two weeks. The investigators collected blood and stool samples before and after each treatment period and analyzed to see how crickets influenced liver function and the gut microbiome.
Eating crickets increased the abundance of five gut bacterial species
Overall, researchers found that cricket consumption did not dramatically change the healthy adult gut microbiome, but it did increase the abundance of five bacterial species, one of which is Bifidobacterium animalis, one of the best-studied probiotics that are known to benefit gut health and improve immune function.
This study demonstrates the consumption of whole cricket powder at 25 grams per day is safe and may even provide some dietary benefits in addition to nutritional benefits. Eating crickets may selectively increase the abundance of some probiotic bacterial species in the gut microbiome that improve gut health and improve immune function.
As the global population continues to grow and nations look for sustainable protein sources, eating crickets will emerge as a nutritional and safe alternative to traditional livestock. Perhaps eating crickets will address the issues of food security and climate change.
Written by Mallory Wiggans
Reference:Stull et al. (2018). Impact of edible cricket consumption on gut microbiota in healthy adults, a double-blind, randomized crossover. Scientific Reports, 8:10762.