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Insects in the human diet: safe and effective protein alternative?

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in insect farming as a sustainable source of human food.

1. Are insects really a safe and effective protein alternative?

Food security will be exposed to stress in the coming decades due to rapid global population growth and increased demand for animal protein.

However, increasing meat production requires an expansion of agricultural areas, an increase in water and heat consumption, and the consumption of animal feed.

This is not possible due to shrinking arable land and declining fresh water supplies.

Furthermore, increased meat production is recognized as a major cause of climate change, which threatens the well-being of future generations.

2. Are insects in the human diet a solution to the animal husbandry problem?

Insects may be a solution to this problem, as they require less water and land than traditional animal husbandry.

Furthermore, insects can be raised in controlled environments, reducing the risk of contamination.

3. But what are the nutritional benefits of insects?

The relative amount of protein can vary substantially, with crude protein content ranging from 23% to 76%.

However, a significant portion of the protein is chemically bound within the insect exoskeleton and, as such, may not be bioavailable.

The total protein content of insects could therefore be overestimated when measured by nitrogen content.

Insects are generally considered to be a good source of the essential amino acids "EAA", which are the basic building blocks of protein.

Furthermore, insects are a source of unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and other important nutrients. In general, insects compare well to traditional protein sources used in animal feed, as well as high-quality protein sources consumed by humans, such as meat, dairy products, and fish.

4. Conclusion: insects in the human diet: safe and effective protein alternative?

However, it is important to note that the scientific literature on the food safety aspects of edible insects remains limited.

Insects may contain allergens or environmental contaminants, so the safety of producing and consuming insects as a protein source needs to be carefully evaluated before promoting their large-scale use.

In conclusion, insects represent a sustainable and effective protein alternative for human and animal nutrition.

However, the food safety of insects needs to be investigated and ensured for them to be used as a protein source on a large scale.


Sources:

  1. Potential health benefits of edible insects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2022;62(13):3499-3508. doi:10.1080/10408398.2020.1867053.Epub 2021 Jan 5.
  2. Insects: A Potential Source of Protein and Other Nutrients for Feed and Food Review Annu Rev 2021 Feb 16;9:333-354.doi:10.1146/annurev-animal-021419-083930.Epub 2020 Nov 23
  3. Edible Insects versus Meat—Nutritional Comparison: Knowledge of Their Composition Is the Key to Good Health Nutrients. 2021 Apr; 13(4): 1207.doi:10.3390/nu13041207
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