Crickets and Protein, Entomophagy, Food Safety

Crickets- Are they Safe to Eat?

Whether or not crickets are safe to eat is something I’m quite sure is an indicator of interest on your part into entomophagy, meaning eating insects.Am I I right? Well then, the short answer is yes, I personally think so, as well as my friends. We eat crickets and cricket-based products such as cricket-flour on a regular basis. Regarding the safety concern of crickets as food, I use a special train of thought, if you will. As stated, it’s a train of thought and not a particular organization, nor experts for that matter who at first lead me to the conclusion that crickets are safe to eat. However, we will have a glance at one study that investigated the safety of edible crickets later on.

Safety and the cricket- “A Train of Thought”

Crickets- Are they Safe to Eat?

To be perfectly honest with you, I used to be the most unhealthy guy out there. I  ate pizzas, hamburgers, drank Coca-Cola, Red Bull etcetera.
Smoking? Oh yes, one pack of smokes a day, non-filter for ten years. I’m sure the majority reading this are young enough, just as I am, to always have known the dangers of smoking.  And how it screws up our liver, heart, and lungs etc. That wasn’t always the case though. By the way, if haven’t already, I suggest you google some pictures of a smoker’s lungs. It is by no means a pretty sight.

Now, bear with me. There is a point to be made here later on.

As I’m sure you already know, the tobacco industry was, and to less extent now, a massive industry. Pouring unbelievable amounts of money into the marketing of these poisoning sticks. That my friend is the only way you can make people smoke, and enjoy this assisted suicide on a stick.

Stage 1 of Getting people to Start to Smoke

You put a cigarette in a cool dude or glamorous gals mouth in the movies, the theatre, the catwalk etc and parade them in front of the world. They even used the women’s rights movement to make women start smoking. As if poisoning yourself would achieve equality. Well, I guess it does but what good does it do for women?

Stage 2 of Getting people to Start to Smoke

If you have the time to watch a documentary about big tobacco I very much suggest you do so. I can’t remember which one, bear in mind I’ve watched a lot of food-related documentaries, you will, however, see these old TV commercials where the doctors, yes the actual doctors claim that it’s beneficial to your health! Don’t believe me? Don’t worry it’s an easy statement to fact check.

Now, although they didn’t straight out claim it was good for your health, it still gave you the “sense” of safety. After all, doctors are there to heal you. We trust them. There’re other such clips were they straight out tell you that it was good for you but it just so happens that Camel was my choice of smokes and well, I used to cough up my lungs. Perhaps the doctors were wrong? I think so yes. It would be funny unless it wasn’t for the fact that millions of people have died because of smkoking. What I’m am I getting at? Well, you see you actually had scientific studies claiming there’s no danger in smoking. Let me reiterate, no danger in smoking according to the scientific studies at the time.

This is a mightily serious issue. To actually have studies lying to us. The scientific community at the time, one could argue were corrupted. One could even argue that’s the case even today. So, does that mean we should disregard studies on food safety? I’m most certainly am not. Food safety is of massive importance. If I didn’t think that was the case, I wouldn’t spend so much time researching and promoting “alternative” food.

Obviously, you’re here reading up on food-safety. You want to know about crickets, and how safe they are to eat. If you’ve come this far, please keep on reading, there’s an important lesson to be learned here. Stage 3 of Getting people to Start to Smoke Now, stage 3 is when the industry in question, this time the tobacco industry plays mind games. This is when you as a viewer is watching CNN and their debate on whether or not smoking is bad for you or not.

This time around though, studies show smoking is not safe for you, nor for your surroundings. Mind you, at this point, there still are studies out there claiming to point to the contrary or at least trying to diffuse the safety concern. You as a smoker will listen to this, and to no one’s surprise (at least not to the paid liers), you’ll continue to smoke. Why? Because you won’t know what to think, having been put in a situation that’s pacifying you. You will hear that smoking is your personal responsibility. That you, yourself, decide whether or not to smoke. True or not, it’s just another weapon in their arsenal.

The Conclusion of a Train of Thought

By now I hope you understand what I’m getting at, and I think you do, people who show an interest in entomophagy and food safety tend to be clever.

Still, I want to drive home the point. The final nail in the coffin if you will. Science, while coughing up our lungs, with a straight face, told us that it was safe, and sometimes to the extreme lies, that it was good for us. Most and for all, both you and I need to use common sense. Before the scientific world told the smokers, and soon to be smokers, that it was good for us people knew it wasn’t. This for the very simple reason that since the time of man people who coughed were going to become sick or already were sick. In other words, empirical evidence showed us this was the case.

Common sense, that’s the way to go.

By this train of thought, I would most certainly consider crickets or cricket based products as a safe alternative, planet-saving, environmentally friendly, job-creating, sustainable food source.

As stated earlier, I’m by no means anti-science. I’m merely pointing out the fact it’s important to use one’s own judgment. As such I’ve decided to bring up some facts from a recent study on the impact of edible crickets.

Cricket safety and Science

Crickets- Are they Safe to Eat?

You’ve come this far, great. Now we’re going to look at a recent study on the safety concern regarding edible crickets from nature.com. Not too surprisingly, the study points out a few things, of which I would like to share with you. Such as edible insects are often seen as:

  • Nutritious.
  • Protein-rich (of which we have an article about- ” Protein Comparison between Beef and Crickets”.
  • A more environmentally friendly alternative to your conventional livestock. It’s something to think about considering the fact that 14,5% of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by us humans come from conventional livestock.

Not to mention, that insects apart from being seen as generally being a good source of bioavailable protein, also contain a lot of other goodies, such as:

  • B vitamins.
  • Minerals.
  • Essential fatty acids.

Also, something to think about is the fact that crickets require less:

  • Land.
  • Water.
  • Feed.

The edible part of the cricket itself compared to the edible parts of conventional livestock is higher in crickets. Basically, the toll on the environment significantly lessens by getting your protein from crickets. Before we continue studying the safety of eating crickets, let’s just take one step back and look at history. That’s to say, even though some people are allergic to insect proteins and to its fiber, chitin, insects that have been eaten throughout history are considered safe for people to eat if we process it correctly, just like we do with any other animal products. And, if I remember correctly, even the bible mentions eating bugs…

The fact is that entomophagy is a growing interest of many people in North America and Europe.

Moreover, I personally would say entomophagy isn’t just of growing interest in North America and Europe, but all over the world. Just look at what has been accomplished in Thailand, a country with a long history of entomophagy, the edible cricket market in Thailand is beginning to become a fully fledged industry. And let’s not forget that today already, 2 billion people eat insects, touching 80% of the world’s population and, spanning 130 countries.

You know, not only do edible insects contain protein, vitamins, minerals, etc, they also contain fiber, and in this case, one particular fiber is called chitin. Now this fiber, chitin, could have an effect on your gut microbiota. And by the way, the fiber comes from the bugs skeleton. The skeleton on insects are called exoskeleton, this since the skeleton is on the outside of its body. You see, the gastrointestinal tract, basically meaning mouth to butt, is home to a number of bacterial cells. These bacterial cells, which encodes your genes, impact your body in more ways one would imagine, such as your:

  • Physiology.
  • Metabolism.
  • Gene expression, relevant to your immune function.
  • Energy.
  • Mood.

Considering the aforementioned facts, your gut is of mighty importance. What you eat, with just small changes, have shown relevant effects. And not to sound all hyperbolic but, according to the study, an imbalance in the gut microbiota and a low microbial diversity are associated with:

  • Metabolic and non-communicable diseases.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions.
  • Allergies.
  • Asthma
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders.

In fewer words, how safe crickets are to eat depends, in this study, on the effects of crickets in your diet and what it does to your microbiota. As I’m sure you already figured out, what food you put in your body and how diverse it is will affect your microbiota and its handling of a disturbed equilibrium in your gut. The number one energy source for your gut microbiota are indigestible dietary carbohydrates, (dietary fibers). As a matter of fact, high fiber intake has shown an association with a reduced risk of not only breast cancer but also with:

  • Diverticular disease.
  • Coronary heart disease.
  • Metabolic syndrome.

The Study

Crickets- Are they Safe to Eat?
While assessing the safety and tolerability of insect powder, and in this case cricket powder, they also looked into if insect powder were to act as a prebiotic.

Prebiotic VS Probiotic

Prebiotic fiber is not the same as probiotics. There is a difference. Prebiotic fiber is a non-digestible part of the food. Some examples of such food are:

  • Bananas.
  • Garlic.
  • Beans.
  • Chicory root.
  • The skin of apples.
  • Jerusalem artichoke.

Once the prebiotic fiber has gone through your small intestine, it reaches your large colon, where it’s then fermented. This fermentation process will then feed beneficial bacteria colonies, including probiotic bacteria. It’ll also help to hike up the number of desirable bacteria in your gut, that are associated with:

  • Better health.
  • Reduced risk of disease.

Now, probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation. Some examples of such foods are:

  • Yogurt.
  • Kimchi.
  • Sauerkraut.
  • Miso soup.

In this regard, the study failed to give us some real answers to the question if chitin functions as a prebiotic. They claim that chitin needs to be tested in dietary intervention studies, where it’s tested in isolation. This in order to confirm prebiotic effects.

Safety and Tolerability

According to the study, they used comprehensive metabolic panels and gastrointestinal symptom questionnaires,  several fecal metabolites, and markers of both systemic and local inflammation and immune function. Again, this in order to see how safe and tolerable it’s to consume cricket powder.

  • The study used 100 % whole cricket powder.
  • They used twenty healthy adults.
  • The participants ate 25 grams of cricket powder a day.
  • The study lasted six weeks.
  • It was double-blind.
  • Had a crossover dietary intervention.

Safety- The Conclusion of the Study

There were several other conditions which the participants had to go by. I won’t mention all of them here. Basically, conditions which they knew could impact gut microbiota were not allowed, nor was dietary supplements or medication that could affect gut microbiota allowed. To be able to partake in the study, the participants had to eat one prepared meal a day for 28 days. This prepared meal was breakfasts, pretty sweet deal if you ask me, having it prepared for you. The cricket powder breakfast consisted of a shake and a muffin, with the cricket powder added to them. The shake contained 10 grams of cricket powder while the muffin contained 15 grams of cricket powder.

The dietary fiber content was said to be around 2.12 grams per 25 grams of cricket powder. About 87% of this fiber was composed of insoluble fiber.

In order to see how much the participants were on board with the study, they had to give back the packaging and also any uneaten portion of the foods. If the participant had eaten 80% of the cricket powder or more, you were considered to be onboard with the study. I would assume you were kicked out of the study if you didn’t eat what you were told, at least if it were bad enough to harm the study. They also had to visit a clinic, three times, and give three stool and blood samples. The clinic, in this case, was the Human Performance Clinical Research Laboratory (HPCRL) at Colorado State University.

The participant’s fecal sample was self-collected. Done using a stool sampling kit where it was then given to the clinic, either refrigerated or frozen. I’m glad I’m not a clinic coordinator, being given these types of “gifts”…

While at the clinic they also had to fill out a gastrointestinal (GI) questionnaire. This questionnaire was then used to gather data on the possible side effects of eating cricket powder. This study is interesting one particular regard, and it’s the fact that the cricket powder they used did not come from a lab somewhere but from a company selling cricket powder commercially. Don’t get me wrong, there would be nothing wrong with using a cricket product made in a lab by people in white coats.

I would simply say that I find it fun, interesting, and comforting to see that there are insect products out there that are used and considered high-standard enough to be used in studies.

 

All of the 20 “guinea pigs” finished the study and claimed to have eaten at least 85% of the foods they were suppose to eat. By looking at the gastrointestinal symptom self-assessments the participants had to fill out, as well as the extensive data from metabolic panels, it looks as if its both safe and tolerable to eat crickets. They also claim that the data of the study suggests that eating crickets could be good for you, like:

  • Improving your gut health.
  • Reduce systematic inflammation.

We have gone through so much now regarding the safety of eating crickets. I thought it would only be fitting to put a hard quote here from the study:

Results demonstrate cricket consumption is tolerable and non-toxic at the studied dose. Cricket powder supported the growth of the probiotic bacterium, Bifidobacterium animalis, which increased 5.7-fold. Cricket consumption was also associated with reduced plasma TNF-α. These data suggest that eating crickets may improve gut health and reduce systemic inflammation”

Crickets- are they really Safe to eat?

Crickets- Are they Safe to Eat?

All I can tell you if you’re not sold on crickets yet, is that I and my friends will continue to promote all forms of insect products. We eat them all the time and will continue to do so in the future. I hope, and I think you already do, understand the concept I’ve been demonstrating here.  So many people already eat these creatures and have been for a very long time. Now, do we need more research? Of course, we do. We are still studying the effects of eating meat, different waters to drink, coffee- which by the way have to be in the millions by now, etcetera. We should never stop learning, never ever. If someone tells us there’s no need to look and study something, we can be damned sure there’s a reason for it. Of course, there will be Nej sayers when it comes to entomophagy. When something new comes up there always is.

Just look at the car manufacturer Tesla. They make this wonderful new kind of car. It has the possibility of being environmentally friendly, fast, cool and a possible future mood for transportation. So what happens? One of their car crashes and all of the sudden the media goes bananas. As if dirty, environmentally damaging, gas or diesel cars never crashed… Anyway, I hope you feel satisfied with the answers given in this article. If not completely satisfied, perhaps you at least have a better grasp on the world of entomophagy.

Don’t forget how much you help keep this planet going by being a “Bug Eater”. Read the article here at Kutann.com “Why you Should eat Crickets”, we go over the environmental contributions of crickets and the health aspect. I thought I would put the link down below for the study for you to read if you feel like checking it out for yourself:

Nature.com

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