Eating insects may improve gut bacteria, reduce inflammation: study

Insects are a common food item in some parts of the world, but have been slow to catch on in the US. Despite the potential environmental benefits of consuming edible insects, many people remain adverse to the idea of eating crickets, ants, and similar critters. A newly published study may help change their minds, finding evidence that consuming crickets may have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria and inflammation levels.

Insects are cheap, require few environmental resources to produce, and don't need much space relative to, for example, cattle. According to a study out of the University of Wisconsin, these small creatures may also be beneficial to human health. Details on a pilot clinical trial have been published in Scientific Reports.

Fiber plays a crucial role in human health, serving as a food source to beneficial gut bacteria. Insects like crickets contain various types of fibers that you wouldn't get from, for example, eating an apple or sweet potato. This new pilot clinical trial looked into whether the fibers contained in insects can help promote this beneficial bacteria.

Volunteers were fed controlled diets, some of them containing ground crickets, and were quizzed both before and after their tailored meals. Researchers collected blood samples from the volunteers to look at various health metrics, as well as stool samples.

The findings include a reduction in an inflammatory protein, an increase in an enzyme tied to gut health, and a boost in good gut bacteria that supports gastrointestinal function and more. The study indicates that further research into the potential health benefits of insects is worth pursuing.

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin-Madison