By Nita Wong ‘21
While crickets are not a staple in the average American diet, more than 2 billion people around the world regularly consume insects, which are known to be rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. A recent study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and published in the journal Scientific Reports is adding the increased growth of beneficial gut bacteria to the list.
Lead author Valerie Stull, a recent UW-Madison doctorate graduate, was 12 years old when she first put an ant in her mouth. Her latest research concerns the effects of cricket consumption on the human microbiome. At the onset of experimentation, she and her team of researchers recruited 20 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 48 to participate in the study. For the first two weeks of the study, the adults consumed either a control breakfast or a breakfast comprised of 25 grams of powdered cricket meal in the form of muffins or shakes. Each participant ate a normal diet for the next two weeks, then switched places for the following two weeks: those who started on the cricket diet were placed on the control diet, and those who started on the control diet were placed on the cricket diet.
Upon analysis of participants’ blood and stool samples and answers to gastrointestinal questionnaires collected immediately before and after each two-week phase of the study, the researchers found an increase in levels of a metabolic enzyme that promotes the health of the gut and a gut bacterium that improves gastrointestinal function and a decrease in the presence of an inflammatory protein in the blood that contributes to conditions including depression and cancer. Stull and her team are hoping that future, more extensive studies will confirm their findings and promote insects as a sustainable food source.
- V. Stull, et. al., Impact of edible cricket consumption on gut microbiota in healthy adults, a double-blind, randomized crossover trial. Scientific Reports 8 (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-29032-2.
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-and-black-cricket-on-grass-776176/