In a Vanity Fair Youtube Video, Australian actress Nicole Kidman delicately dined on what she explained were "micro-livestock" (bugs). She also declared herself to be one of "two billion people in the world" who regularly indulge on the insect delicacy. While we can't vouch for the taste, perhaps Ms. Kidman is on to something, as a new clinical trial has proven consuming crickets can help promote healthy stomachs and reduce inflammation.
The journal Scientific Reports published the findings of lead author Valerie Stull's look into what eating crickets can do to the human microbiome. As it turns out, these bugs can do a lot of good, not just for our health but also for the environment.
"There's a lot of interest right now in edible insects," Stull said in a statement. "It's gaining traction in Europe and in the U.S. as a sustainable, environmentally friendly protein source compared to traditional livestock."
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As Stull and her team discovered, crickets contain fibers like chitin which are different from the fibers usually found in foods like fruits and veggies. Fiber acts as a microbial food source, and some types can actually promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics.
The purpose of the trial was to discover whether insect fibers, like those found in crickets, would influence the bacteria found in our gastrointestinal tract. To do this, 20 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 48 spent two weeks eating a controlled breakfast or a breakfast of muffins and shakes made with 25 grams of powdered cricket. Then, the participants switched, with half eating the cricket breakfast for another two weeks and the other half eating a normal breakfast.
Blood and stool samples taken from the participants were tested for specific health measures. While there was no evidence of significant gastrointestinal changes or side effects, researchers did see an increase in a metabolic enzyme associated with gut health. and a decrease in an inflammatory protein in the blood linked to other health measures, like depression and cancer.
Of course, larger studies are needed in order to replicate these findings and determine just what part of the cricket contributes to these health improvements. As for Stull, she hopes to promote insects as a more mainstream food source in the U.S.
"Food is very tied to culture, and 20 or 30 years ago, no one in the U.S. was eating sushi because we thought it was disgusting but now you can get it at a gas station in Nebraska," she said.
Perhaps in the next few years, we'll be ditching our weekly sushi dates for an evening spent dining on fried crickets instead. Only time will tell, but it's definitely food for thought.
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