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Would you like crickets with that?

MADISON (WKOW) — Eating crickets can be good for your health, according to a new clinical study from UW-Madison.

Just ask Valerie Stull, a recent doctoral graduate from the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies who was 12 when she ate her first insect.

"I was on a trip with my parents in Central America and we were served fried ants," she says. "I remember being so grossed out initially, but when I put the ant in my mouth, I was really surprised because it tasted like food – and it was good!"

Stull is the lead author of a new pilot clinical trial published in the journal Scientific Reports that looks at what eating crickets does to the human microbiome. 

It shows that consuming crickets can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and that eating crickets is not only safe at high doses but may also reduce inflammation in the body.

"There is a lot of interest right now in edible insects," Stull says. "It’s gaining traction in Europe and in the U.S. as a sustainable, environmentally friendly protein source compared to traditional livestock."

More than 2 billion people around the world regularly consume insects, which are also a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. The research team was interested in documenting for the first time via clinical trial the health effects of eating them.

Raising insects for protein not only helps protect the environment, but also offers a more healthful option than meat in many wealthy countries with high-meat diets, says co-author Jonathan Patz, director of the UW-Madison Global Health Institute, where Stull will begin a postdoctoral research position in the fall.

Crickets, like other insects, contain fibers, such as chitin, that are different from the dietary fiber found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Fiber serves as a microbial food source and some fiber types promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics. The small trial probed whether insect fibers might influence the bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract. 

For two weeks, 20 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 48 ate either a control breakfast or a breakfast containing 25 grams of powdered cricket meal made into muffins and shakes.

Each participant then ate a normal diet for a two-week "washout period."

For the following two weeks, those who started on the cricket diet consumed a control breakfast and those who started on the control diet consumed a cricket breakfast.

What the study does not include is whether you should order red or white wine.

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