Edible insects as a source of food bioactives and their potential health effects
Insects as food bioactives
Entomophagy (consumption of insects) is an issue of global nutritional and environmental interest. The nutritional value of insects appears to be high, since they are rich in protein and fat and provide a range of vitamins and minerals. Edible insects contain similar amounts of protein to conventional meat and higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Due to their high content of protein, micronutrients and fiber, insects could become a valuable alternative to food derived from other animals. The findings of various in vitro and in vivo animal studies suggest beneficial effects of entomophagy with respect to cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and non-communicable diseases as well as immune functions and carcinogenesis. Edible insects appear to be a promising and insufficiently explored source of macronutrients, micronutrients and food bioactives. In the course of time, some edible insects may meet the criteria of functional food ingredients. However, there is a significant lack of research investigating health outcomes in humans. The available evidence in humans, derived from randomized controlled trials, suggests a role of edible insects in the promotion of mineral status and the modulation of gut microbiota, with some prebiotic effects. High-quality clinical studies assessing efficacy, oral intake safety and allergy risk are needed.