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Cricket, anyone?
August 14, 2018, 5:18 pm

Summer heat may not be the best time to go out and exercise yourself with a game of cricket, but that should not stop you from trying cricket for your health — we mean, with a bowl of crickets, the edible insect variety.

A new clinical trial has shown 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.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin in the US studying the effect of crickets on the human microbiome — the bacteria in the gut — have found that it helps support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine and that eating crickets is not only safe at high doses, but may also reduce inflammation in the body.

Eating insects, a long and honored tradition in different parts of Asia and Africa, is gaining traction in Europe and elsewhere in the West, as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly protein source compared to consuming livestock.

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 diet. More than 2 billion people around the world regularly consume insects, which are also a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

Crickets, like other insects, contain fibers, such as chitin, that are different from the dietary fiber found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Fiber serves as a microbial food source and some fiber types promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics.

In the study, participants ate either a control breakfast or a breakfast containing 25 grams of powdered cricket meal made into muffins and shakes. Over a four-week period, each participant served as their own control by switching the breakfast diets for two weeks. The researchers were also blinded on which diet each participant was at any given time.

Following the study, participants reported no significant gastrointestinal changes or side effects and the researchers found no evidence of changes to 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.

Additionally, the team saw an increase in the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria like Bifidobacterium animalis, a strain that has been linked to improved gastrointestinal function and other measures of health in studies of a commercially available strain called BB-12.

But, the researchers say, more and larger studies are needed to replicate these findings and determine what components of crickets may contribute to improved gut health.

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