A new clinical trial showed 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.
The clinical trial, which was carried out in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States, documented for the first time the health effects of eating insects.
The co-corresponding author of the study, Prof. Tiffany Weir, of the Colorado State University, USA, said, "This study was important because insects represent a novel component in western diets and their health effects in human populations haven't really been studied.
"With what we now know about the gut microbiota and its relationship to human health, it is important to establish how a novel food might affect gut microbial populations. We found that cricket consumption may actually offer benefits beyond nutrition," he noted.
Another co-author, Jonathan Patz, who is a director of the UW-Madison Global Health Institute, said, "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."
In the study, 20 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 48 ate either a controlled breakfast or a breakfast containing 25 grams of powdered cricket meal made into muffins and shakes for two weeks.
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 controlled breakfast and those who started on the control diet consumed a cricket breakfast.
According to sciencedaily.com, the researchers collected blood samples, stool samples and answers to gastrointestinal questionnaires immediately before the study began, immediately following the first two-week diet period and immediately after the second two-week diet period.
The participants' blood samples were tested for a host of health measures, like blood glucose and enzymes associated with liver function, and also for levels of a protein associated with inflammation. The faecal samples were tested for the byproducts of microbial metabolism in the human gut, inflammatory chemicals associated with the gastrointestinal tract, and the overall makeup of the microbial communities present in the stools.
The study authors reported that participants had no significant side effects and found no evidence of changes in overall microbial composition or changes to gut inflammation.
They did see an increase in a metabolic enzyme associated with gut health, and a decrease in an inflammatory protein in the blood called TNF-alpha, which has been linked to other measures of well-being, like depression and cancer.