As we commemorate Earth Day on April 22nd, we look ahead to an investable future which envisions a path of sustainability, progress and new environmental movements to combat the ramifications of unsustainable practices which have come with the modern world.
With edible insects heralding the way forward in modern eating, numerous scientific studies have shown countless benefits as “edible insects provide satisfactorily with energy and protein, meet amino acid requirements for humans, are high in MUFA and/or PUFA, and rich in several micronutrients such as copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc as well as riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, and in some cases folic acid.”
Further research papers have quoted, “The addition of edible insects such as crickets to the human diet could offer a myriad of environmental and nutritional benefits including an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, decreased agricultural use of land and water, improved prevention and management of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, and enhanced immune function.”
For those pushing forward in creating new pathways of revolutionary practices and research, HOP interviewed three inspirational students, each of whom are conducting their own studies in the world of edible insects, sustainability and dietary health.
HOP spoke with Thomas Baker, a masters student at Surrey University exploring the effects of cricket protein on muscle hypertrophy whilst also using cricket protein to determine muscle regeneration during strength training.
With Thomas's research underway, his main focus is to understand the impact of cricket protein within sports and exercise in order to see how it affects blood glucose and muscle hypertrophy. Thomas explained that “it’s important to take as much valuable research as we can and apply it to the wider community for example how do we combat muscle atrophy within the elderly population?….the current research leads us to this possibility in crickets, however obviously it is as yet an unproven link that crickets stimulate muscle protein synthesis, but this is an area we wish to explore by looking at the absorption profile of the amino acids and possibly (ethics dependant) some markers of muscle protein synthesis”
In order to harness further information on crickets, Thomas has been using HOP cricket powder as a protein substitute within his research along with testing the powder in his day- to-day cooking.
In one recipe, the creation of muffins was on the menu to which Thomas told HOP
“I made the base using a mixture of eggs, butter, sugar, flour and cricket flour which was then paired with nutmeg, dark chocolate, carrot and walnut….in another recipe I made three different flavours with one being just cricket with no added extras, it was found to be very palatable….seeing as it is replacing the gluten network it will be great in biscuits similar to shortbreads and cupcakes and it will work great in gluten free bread or soda bread.”
As ideas on recipes grow, so too does the health benefits primarily due to the fact that
"100 g of dried cricket, mealworm or locust provides recommended daily intake of zinc, copper, and phosphorus….Replacing 10 % of the wheat flour with cricket powder in bread and pasta recipes increases Zn content by approx. 90–100 %.” Alongside this, in baking it was seen that “cricket flours replaced 5% wheat flour in bakery product thus resulting in breads with a higher protein and fibre content”
With edible insects being tried and tested, Loredana Herciu, a final year food science bachelor's student from Glasgow Caledonian University, spoke with HOP to share her edible insect recipes which included cricket pumpkin risotto, cricket quiche, and cricket brownies with chopped walnuts.
Along with creating new recipes, Loredana is currently completing a bachelor's degree in investigating heavy metals and shellfish allergens of cross reactivity in edible insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms in order to create vital information for those wanting to consume edible insects in the future.
In current research papers, it has been cited that “.... using immunoenzymatic methods, the analysis of sequence identity or homology between insect proteins and the already well-characterised food allergens (e.g., from crustaceans) gives the possibility to infer common properties shared by allergenic proteins and maybe predict the allergenic potential. Although at the moment there is no clue about the structural characteristics underlying allergenicity.”
Yet despite investigations, it is therefore imperative to highlight that “very few studies were carried out on cricket proteins’ cross-reactivity in patients allergic to shellfish or HDM….The information available on the allergenicity of edible insects is still very limited. They can cross-react with other largely consumed foods like crustaceans but also with widespread invertebrate inhalant allergens…”
As research delves deeper into the world of edible insects and sustainability, many researchers are paving the way for sustainable food production and food management.
HOP spoke with Miranda Burke, a PHD student at Lancaster University currently working on a research paper examining how we can reduce food waste in the supply chain from farm to fork.
Miranda told HOP, “with every action there is a reaction as everything is interlinked…within the food production area you can have a loss of biodiversity, land loss, land fragmentation along with air, soil and water pollution which can comes from pesticide….Inevitably we are going to have to move on past relying on the meat industry as we do and changing our attitude towards edible insects….at this moment in time, attitude change is hindered and prevented by means such as living costs and personal limitations, yet those means can be changed with a huge group effort”
With continued endeavours from companies such as Woven and the crucial research of students from around the UK and the world, the edible insect market is broadening its horizons one insect at a time.