Chitin (kai'tin) and healthy fats from insects appear to contribute to healthy gut microbiota and are strong sources of protein and nutrients, according to a paper co-authored by a Colorado State University researcher and published in Nature Food.
Tiffany Weir, an associate professor in CSU's Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, co-authored the paper with the University of Wisconsin's Valerie Stull. They pioneered human research on cricket consumption's effect on gut microbiota.
Weir said that her and Stull's earlier research helped spawn Weir's latest study of how cricket-derived chitin in designer chocolate patties may increase positive prebiotic effects on individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.
"Edible insects and insect fibers may be unusual in the American diet, but they are commonplace around the globe, as insects are part of many traditional cuisines," Stull said. "They are gaining attention as an environmentally friendly source of animal protein."
A previous study referenced in the paper estimated 3,000 ethnic groups in 130 countries eat insects mostly harvested in the wild. But insect farming also is growing in popularity as it uses less water, land and feed and emits fewer greenhouse gases.
"Although reduced environmental impacts of insect rearing compared to traditional livestock have been a key selling point for insect-based products, there are also underexplored and under-appreciated nutritional benefits," Weir said.
"Insects are touted as a good source of protein, but the fiber component, chitin, is not found in other animal foods, and the omega-3 content may be higher than what is found in many plant foods. These components may provide unique benefits for the gut by encouraging healthy gut microbiota and reducing intestinal inflammation."
Weir said that the paper is a perspective piece summarizing current knowledge on the topic and highlighting gaps in related research.
Among the paper's key points:
"Low-cost insect farming could help vulnerable communities meet their nutritional needs and improve food security, especially in contexts where entomophagy is already practiced," the paper said in its closing paragraphs.
"Not only are insects generally an environmentally friendly animal protein source requiring fewer resources than conventional livestock, but some species are also adept recyclers that can consume and convert low-value organic byproducts and wastes, including food waste, into nutritious, high-quality food or animal feed."
Added Stull, "Initial reports suggest several benefits from including insects in the diet, but more research—especially human intervention studies—is needed."
More information: Valerie Stull, Chitin and omega-3 fatty acids in edible insects have underexplored benefits for the gut microbiome and human health, Nature Food (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s43016-023-00728-7. www.nature.com/articles/s43016-023-00728-7
Citation: Chitin from consuming insects can help both gut microbiota and global health (2023, April 20) retrieved 20 April 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-chitin-consuming-insects-gut-microbiota.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.