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Insects – Great for the gut, and other things

August 20, 2018

For me when we first started Eat Grub back in the middle of 2013, it was about the nutrition side of things rather than the sustainability aspect, which, while of great significance is less personal to me.

I suffer from Crohn’s disease, which I originally blogged about back then too, and you can read here. In short it’s an auto-immune Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Your body’s immune system, wants to attack it’s own bowel.

We already know what a great protein source insects are. They contain all 9 essential amino acids, and are high in iron, calcium, omegas, and even B12. There were also many other ideas at that moment on how great they were for the human body nutritionally, but conclusive research on the subject was only just getting started.

Five years on, and there’s been massive strides taken. This is both in the quality of product available for consumers to buy, and an abundance of scientific studies to back it up.

One of the key things that has always been assumed about insects is just how good for the gut they are due to a high chitin content. At the time I hadn’t wanted to shout it out too loudly. Besides from my own experience of cricket protein alleviating some of my Crohn’s symptoms, there weren’t any studies or proof available. But this has now changed…

A team lead by Valerie Stull at the University of Wisconsin recently looked into what chitinous fibre (present in crickets in abundance) does for the gut.

It’s already well known that dietary fibre in fruits, nuts, veg and grains is great at promoting the growth of good bacteria (pro-biotics) in the gut… and fibre is just fibre, right? Well, no it’s not actually…

During the trials they discovered that chitinous fibre helps to increase levels of a metabolic enzyme associated with gut health. Sounds complicated, but to put it simply, there’s a nasty inflammatory protein called TNF Alpha, and it’s been implicated in a range of issues including:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Many types of IBS & IBD (including Crohn’s)

The metabolic enzyme mentioned above that is found in insects, helps lower the level of those TNF-Alphas, and with it inflammation.

The University’s testing also involved finding a significant rise – a five to seven times increase – in a bacterium called bifidobacterium animalis, which is a good bacteria responsible for general gut health and a strong immune response.

When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s at 18, I was put on some special drugs called Anti-TNF drugs, which worked extremely quickly basically stopped your body from inflaming internally. When I say it was a wonder drug, I really mean it. It was no cure, but the difference in life was incredible at the time…particularly at 18 when you’re under all sorts of social and life pressures that you don’t even realise.

It’s no wonder that having been eating insect protein in some form every day for the last five years that overall I’ve been healthier than the previous ten. Of course, there’s no complete way of knowing whether that is indeed the sole reason, however, I’d put my money on it being at least a good part of it.

Have you tried insects yet as a source of nutrition?

Written by Neil Whippey
Co-founder @ Eat Grub