The nutritional upside of eating insects
Researchers from the West Virginia University (WVU) have used a bespoke, patented technique to isolate the proteins from powdered insects in order to understand their nutritional values.
The research was performed using powdered crickets, locusts and silk worm pupae. This is because, as the researchers suggest, insect powder might be the easiest, most palatable way to consume these proteins; the powders have the nutritional and sustainability benefits of insects but without all the legs. Western consumers are famously averse to gulping down a bowl of crickets or a mealworm or two, despite most of the rest of the world accepting this as normal.
“It’s a minority that doesn’t consume insects,” said Jacek Jaczynski, professor of food science and muscle food safety at WVU and one of the study’s authors.
“As the population grows, we’ll have to feed everyone. I don’t say insects will replace our farm animals, but it’s another alternative that seems more sustainable than what we currently do.”
The study itself involved taking the insect powders and isolating the proteins using a special technique patented by the university. The isolated proteins were then analysed to assess their nutritional qualities.
The research showed that the proteins from insects have a high level of essential amino acids and that similar sorts of proteins to those found in beef were also found in locust powders. It also showed that, in general, isolated insect protein is a highly nutritional substance and that it could be used widely in a diet, just as other proteins and protein additives already are.
“Grains have been around for ages, and they were totally accepted by all populations. Why don’t we use insects with the same kind of model on a high level as a source of nutrients? We have to find a way to extract and isolate high-quality nutrients and develop prototypes that will jive well with our taste buds.”
The paper was published in LWT and is available here.
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