Published in Health and Wellness
Can consumption of cricket powder impact gut microbiota?

Scientists have investigated the tolerability and impact on the gut microbiota from consuming whole cricket powder.  The study published in the journal Scientific Reports, by Weir et al. reports that previous research has found that microbiota in the gut can influence normal physiology, nutritional status, metabolism, immune function as well as disease progression and overall wellbeing.  

Whilst edible insects are an excellent source of protein, as well as other nutrients, and provide a “relatively understudied” source of fibre, known as Chitins, they are only now gaining interest in the western world as a food source.  This is mainly due to global food security which includes, climate change, population growth, and shifting dietary preferences.  Chitin, a modified dietary polysaccharide, is consider by the authors of this current study to have prebiotic properties that could benefit the growth of healthy bacteria.  

To investigate its effect on gut microbiome, the scientists recruited 20 healthy adults aged 18-65 years.  The participants were randomly split into two groups.  The study was conducted as a randomised, double-blinded, crossover trial, with two 14 day intervention periods and a washout period of 14 days between each intervention.  During each intervention the participants received a breakfast of 80g of pumpkin spiced muffin and a dry breakfast shake which were mixed with a liquid of their choice.  The control breakfast did not contain any cricket powder whilst the cricket breakfast contained 25g of cricket powder (2.12 grams of total dietary fibre). Both breakfasts were identical in ingredients, however purple cornflower was added to the control smoothies so that it mimiced the texture of the cricket shake, and cocoa powder was added to the muffin so that it contained insoluble fibre. 

At baseline, end of period 1 and end of period 2, blood and stool samples were collected and analysed.  The participants also completed a digestive health questionnaire, reporting any changes in digestive health over the course of the study.

Weir et al.’s results showed that cricket consumption caused no significant side effects and did not disrupt the healthy adult microbiota.  However the team report that it did cause an increase in abundance of five bacterial taxa.  They state “One of which most closely aligned to sequences of Bifidobacterium animalis. B. animalis, a gram-positive, non-spore forming, lactic acid producing bacteria.” The study notes that this is one of the most studied probiotics and in clinical studies has been found to improve gastrointestinal function, protect against diarrhoea, reduce side effects of antibiotic treatment and increase resistance to common respiratory infections.  B. animalis increased by “a log fold change of 5.7 on the cricket diet”. 

Compared to the control diet, cricket consumption was found to reduce TNF-α, a pro-inflammatory cytokine. Increased levels have been associated with intestinal inflammation and several inflammatory gut conditions. Weir et al report that “TNF-α has been linked with a number of important health endpoints including cancer incidence, cardiovascular disease, and major depression.”  They note that “Whether consumption of edible insects should be recommended as a strategy to improve overall diet quality and positively influence these health endpoints requires additional empirical evidence.”  In conclusion the study notes that their findings support the need for further research, including studies which have larger sample sizes, longer durations and variable doses of insect consumption.

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