Open Wide And Swallow Those Bugs
July 18, 2014

Open Wide And Swallow Those Bugs

We all have had a bug fly in our mouth at one time or another, and our first thought after we gag is to spit it out quickly. However, in many parts of the world, insects are a delicacy. The term for this is “entomophagy,” which is the consumption of insects for food.

Ever since prehistoric man, insects have been eaten as food in many cultures. Eggs, Larvae, pupae and the insect itself are consumed by millions of people around the world, most commonly in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and yes, even here in the Americas, people chow down on the creepy crawlies.

In Vancouver, Canada, there are a couple of restaurants that serve cricket-based food to the public on a daily basis. Vij’s Restaurant makes flatbread with roasted crickets ground up in the flour and Rangoli Restaurant serves pizza with whole roasted crickets sprinkled on top. I think not.

Moving on, this to me is quite disturbing. In a recent report, the UN is urging everyone to consume insects as part of relieving world hunger, according to the BBC. They say that over two billion people worldwide are already eating insects as part of their diet. Although I don’t doubt this, to me it just puts a bad taste in my mouth to even think of the idea.

The study also suggest that insect farming for food will not create such as negative an impact on the environment as producing other types of food products.

“Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint,” according to the report. The report also lists the nutritional value of insects.

For instance, a caterpillar has 28.2 grams or protein and 35.5 grams of iron. A grasshopper has 20.6 grams of protein, 35.2 mg of calcium and five grams of iron. A dung beetle has 17.2 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of iron. I’ll get my nutrition from chicken, fish and “real food,” thank you.

The report also suggests adding insects to restaurant menus and as an added ingredient to animal feed production. “The use of insects on a large scale as a feed ingredient is technically feasible, and established companies in various parts of the world are already leading the way,” the study adds.

Entomophagist Daniella Martin told Huffington Post Live in a previous report, “I think it’s so interesting that something that’s so traditionally reviled could actually really make a difference in terms of a lot of the global issues we are facing right now.”

For instance, it takes 656 square feet of land and 2,900 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. In comparison, it only takes 50 square feet of land and one pint of water to produce one pound of crickets.

“My experiment was met with equal parts admiration and disgust,” she added.

Although it sounds disgusting, there may be some benefits besides helping the environment – it can make humans smarter.

Amanda D. Melin, PhD, lead author of the Human Evolution study, stated in a report, “Challenges associated with finding food have long been recognized as important in shaping evolution of the brain and cognition in primates, including humans. Our work suggests that digging for insects when food was scarce may have contributed to hominid cognitive evolution and set the stage for advanced tool use.”

“We find that capuchin monkeys eat embedded insects year-round but intensify their feeding seasonally, during the time that their preferred food – ripe fruit – is less abundant. These results suggest embedded insects are an important fallback food. Accessing hidden and well-protected insects living in tree branches and under bark is a cognitively demanding task, but provides a high-quality reward: fat and protein, which is needed to fuel big brains,” she added. “Primates who extract foods in the most seasonal environments are expected to experience the strongest selection in the ‘sensorimotor intelligence’ domain, which includes cognition related to object handling.”

What does the study of how primates foraged for insects have to do with humans benefiting from eating bugs? The answer, suggested by researchers, is that primitive humans included insects as part of their diet – a theory gathered from fossil records — which helped them learn skills to find food when their normal diet was scarce. Reportedly, this resulted in more intelligence and increased brain size.

In all reality, it may be disgusting to think of, but if it came down to survival and insects were the only food source, I would have to say, open wide and swallow some bugs.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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