Vegetarian Bugs Have High Antioxidant Capacity, According to Study

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Teramo, Italy—A new study published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that crickets have 75% the antioxidant power of fresh orange juice, and silkworm fat twice the antioxidant power of olive oil.

Researchers tested a range of commercially available edible insects and invertebrates for antioxidant activity, after removing inedible parts like wings and stings. Antioxidant ability was compared to fresh orange juice and olive oil, as those foods are known to have antioxidant effects in humans.

The researchers found that vegetarian bugs including grasshoppers, silkworms and crickets displayed the highest values of antioxidant capacity—the water-soluble parts of the bugs had 500% the antioxidant capacity of fresh orange juice, but even at a dilution of 88% water, as they would have in their intact form, they have 75% the antioxidant activity.

Giant cicadas, giant water bugs, black tarantula and black scorpions, on the other hand, showed minimal antioxidant activity.

That said, the actual polyphenol content was low—and as the polyphenols are what give plants their antioxidant capacity, this suggests that bug antioxidant capacity depends on yet-unknown compounds.

Professor Mauro Serafini, lead author of the study, noted in a press release that “The in vivo efficacy of antioxidant-rich food is highly dependent on bioavailability and the presence of an ongoing oxidative stress. So as well as identifying other antioxidant compounds in insects, we need tailored intervention studies to clarify their antioxidant effects in humans. In the future, we might also adapt dietary regimens for insect rearing in order to increase their antioxidant content for animal or human consumption.”

The study authors also noted, “Our results shows that edible insects and invertebrates are an optimal source of bioactive ingredients and of high quality protein, minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids, together with a low environmental impact, highlighting their importance as sustainable novel foods under a nutritional, functional, and ecological point of view.”

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