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Chitin and omega-3 fatty acids in edible insects have underexplored benefits for the gut microbiome and human health


A healthy gut microbiome is critical for nutrient metabolism, pathogen inhibition and immune regulation, and is highly influenced by diet. Edible insects are good sources of protein and micronutrients, but unlike other animal-derived foods, they also contain both dietary fibre and omega-3 fatty acids that can modulate gut microbiota. Here we explore the potential impacts of insect consumption on the microbiome. Laboratory, animal and human studies indicate that insect fibre in the form of chitin and its derivatives can modify gut microbiota with beneficial outcomes. Some insects also contain favourable omega-3/omega-6 ratios. We identify gaps in the literature—especially a dearth of human studies—that must be addressed to better understand health impacts of entomophagy. Insects, already eaten across the globe, can be farmed using fewer resources than conventional livestock. Widening the research scope offers an opportunity to advance use of edible insects to address interconnected environmental and health challenges.

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Correspondence to Valerie J. Stull.

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Stull, V.J., Weir, T.L. Chitin and omega-3 fatty acids in edible insects have underexplored benefits for the gut microbiome and human health. Nat Food 4, 283–287 (2023).

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