4. Eating Crickets May Improve Gut Health

What do you think about having a snack of crickets? Tone down that weird look, please be informed that this is a diet rich in proteins, far better in CO2 emission control, and improves your gut health in a remarkable way. According to Valerie J. Stull, PhD, MPH, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the idea of snacking crickets is not as ludicrous as some might think. Stull and colleagues published a study in Scientific Reports that assessed the safety, tolerability and effects that consuming crickets had on 20 healthy men and women aged 18 to 48 years.

“Like many edible insects, crickets are considered an environmentally friendly protein source. They require significantly less feed, land, and water to survive and thrive than traditional livestock, while also emitting fewer greenhouse gases. Crickets like tight confined spaces, so farming them vertically makes sense. We have good data on the nutritional content of many edible insects, including crickets. Most are very high in protein and other nutrients. But what many people don’t know is that insects also contain fiber, unlike other animal products like beef, chicken, or eggs.” says Dr. Stull.

“The purpose of the study was threefold. We wanted to confirm that cricket consumption was safe and tolerable. Considering people eat crickets around the world, we expected this to be true, but wanted to verify it clinically. We also wanted to see if eating edible crickets influenced human health directly by changing lipid metabolism or markers of inflammation. Lastly, we were interested in assessing if insect fibers, such as chitin – the primary component of the exoskeleton – could serve as prebiotics. By prebiotics, I mean non-digestible food items that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Ultimately, we wanted to know if eating crickets was good for gut health.” says Dr. Stull.

A double-blind, randomized, crossover clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of consuming whole cricket powder (25 g/ day) on gut microbiota composition, while also assessing safety and tolerability. In a six-week dietary intervention, 20 healthy adults were randomized into two study arms and consumed either cricket-containing or control breakfast foods for 14 days, followed by a washout period and assignment to the opposite treatment. Blood and stool samples were collected during the treatment periods to understand the changes in blood chemistry, liver function, and shifts in microbiota.

“Ultimately, our small clinical trial had a few interesting findings. First, we didn’t see any sign of toxicity or intolerability for study participants after eating crickets, which is good news. Second, we didn’t see changes in lipid metabolism, but we did observe a slight increase in alkaline phosphatase and a decrease in circulating pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha with cricket consumption. These results are suggestive of an improvement in intestinal homeostasis, meaning that eating crickets may improve gut health and reduce systemic inflammation.”

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