How’s this for irony: A food source that many people find gut-wrenching might be just the ticket to stop that gut from wrenching.
A new study in the Scientific Reports Journal suggests eating crickets can positively affect human gut health and even reduce overall body inflammation.
Valerie Stull, the study’s lead author, told WTOP TV she and the other researchers wanted to see how the type of fiber found in crickets could affect the gastrointestinal tract.
“Dietary fibers are those indigestible dietary carbohydrates that we eat and our body doesn’t absorb, but they’re actually the primary food or energy sources for the microbes in our gut,” Stull, an incoming postdoctoral researcher at the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the station. “So basically the fiber that we’re getting in our diet is shaping the growth of microbes in our gut.”
The study was conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An article published by the university explained the stomach-churning things both participants and researchers had to do for science thusly:
For two weeks, 20 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 48 ate either a control breakfast or a breakfast containing 25 grams of powdered cricket meal made into muffins and shakes. 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 control breakfast and those who started on the control diet consumed a cricket breakfast.
Immediately following the first two-week diet period and after the second two-week diet period, the researchers then collected blood samples, stool samples and questionnaires about the participants’ gastrointestinal history.
Researchers then tested for a variety of things, including the byproducts of microbial metabolism in the human gut, and the overall makeup of the microbial communities present in the stools.
Participants reported no significant gastrointestinal changes or side effects from eating the crickets and the researchers found no evidence of changes to overall microbial composition or changes to gut inflammation.
However, there was 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, the release said.
Stull admits more studies are needed, but the initial findings suggest better gut health may be another potential selling point for making insects into a common food source.
Put it this way — she’s an optimist.
“Food is very tied to culture, and 20 or 30 years ago, no one in the U.S. was eating sushi because we thought it was disgusting, but now you can get it at a gas station in Nebraska,” she said.