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Insect nutrient battle: Asian crickets pack more essential fatty acids than European mealworm

Millette Burgos

By Millette Burgos+

12-Apr-2017
Last updated on 12-Apr-2017 at 03:13 GMT2017-04-12T03:13:34Z

Crickets contained 'major proportions' of omega-6. ©iStock
Crickets contained 'major proportions' of omega-6. ©iStock

There are more essential fatty acids in the lipids of two species of crickets and a grasshopper from Asia, compared with the yellow mealworm larvae, which is widely reared in Europe for human food.

Researchers said it was vital to get a better understanding of the nutritional properties of insects, as interest in their use for human nutrition grows.

The cricket species they assessed were A.domesticus and Co. discolors. The grasshopper was the Ch. Parallelus.

“A. domesticus and Co. discolor contain omega-6 in major proportions, but Ch. parallelus contains omega-3 in major proportions,” researchers from the University of Liege in Belgium, wrote in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology.

“Both linoleic acid (omega-6) and α-linolenic acid (omega-3) are essential for humans. The consumption of these two polyunsaturated fatty acids are possibly linked to reduced inflammation, reduced risk of heart attacks and many other health promoting effects in the human body.”

The study’s fatty acid data analysis of the four insects revealed cricket Co.discolor had the highest essential fatty acid (EFA) content (54.37%), followed by the grasshopper (51.44%), and the A. domesticus cricket (42.50%).

The yellow mealworm only had 22.84% EFA in its lipids.

The grasshopper’s major lipid component was composed mostly of omega-3, followed by omega-9 and omega-6.

Total lipds

Meanwhile, the cricket Co. discolor’s major lipid component consisted of omega-6 followed by omega-9 and palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid, while A. domesticus cricket’s was omega- 6.

The yellow mealworm’s major fatty component was omega-9.

While the study revealed an abundance of EFAs in the lipids of Asian insects, the yellow mealworm revealed more total lipids at 32% compared to the three orthoperans’ 10-15% lipid content.

“Food lipids not only provide energy, fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, but also play a significant role in shaping the sensory characteristics of the food,” researchers said.

“Among all sources, insects hold a special position because some insects reportedly contain up to 75% lipids based on dry weight.”

The study concluded: “At last the nutritional parameters including polyunsaturated to saturated and omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratios of these insect lipids are also being discussed to understand the potential role of these lipids in human nutrition.”

Meanwhile, a recent study revealed that crickets could become a functional protein ingredient to rival casein and whey in nutritional beverages and sports drinks.

 

Source: Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology

DOI: 10.1016/j.aspen.2017.02.001

“Insect fatty acids: A comparison of lipids from three Orthopterans and Tenebrio molitor L. larvae”

Authors: Aman Paul, Michel Fredrich et al.