Insect protein as beneficial as milk protein

Researchers in Denmark say mealworm protein and milk protein have the same performance on digestion, absorption, and on the ability to stimulate muscle production.

Insects have attracted significant interest as an alternative source of dietary protein. Not only do they contain essential amino acids and trace minerals and vitamins, but insects have strong sustainability credentials.

Crickets, for example, are said to produce 11 times more food than cattle for the same amount of feed and 1,000 times less water. Mealworms produce at least 14 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than cattle.

How insect protein – and in particular, mealworm protein – stands up against the ‘gold standard’ milk protein, however, has yet to be investigated. Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands have sought to do just that.

Protein digestion and amino acid uptake​

Dutch agri-tech Protifarm, which was acquired by Ÿnsect in April this year​, provided its Buffalo mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus​) for the double-blind randomised trial.

Both mealworm protein and milk protein (80% casein, 20% whey) were investigated for their impact on digestion, absorption, and on participants’ ability to stimulate muscle production.

Findings revealed that mealworm protein matches that of milk protein. Further, it contains all essential acids and is efficiently digested in the human body.

To determine this, the researchers added stable isotope labelled amino acids to the foods of the larvae of the Buffalo mealworm. When these larvae were digested by study participants, the amino acids could be tracked throughout the human body, from protein digestion to amino acid uptake.

In this way, they were also able to explore their use as building blocks to build muscle tissue. A similar process was undertaken for labelled milk protein.

“We used a unique isotope labelling approach to prove rapid digestions and effective stimulation of muscle protein synthesis following the ingestion of Buggalo mealworm,” ​explained lead researcher Professor Dr Luc van Loon.

“The observed response did not differ from the ingestion of a similar amount of milk protein. It is great to see a protein source that combines both excellent functionality with sustainability.” 

Marrying performance, health, and sustainability​

The research comes less than two months after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a safety assessment​ on the dried yellow mealworm, concluding the insect-derived food product is safe for human consumption.

For Protifarm and Ÿnsect, the Maastricht study proves that mealworm is the only protein on the market able to combine performance and health – covering digestion, absorption, muscle synthesis, as well as reduction of cholesterol in the liver and plasma – with ‘naturalness’ and sustainability.

“in short, Buffalo mealworm proteins offer the best of both worlds by providing a high quality protein that is produced in an extremely sustainable environment,” ​said Protifarm CEO Tom Mohrmann.

“Insects will truly be the next sustainable protein source that matches the quality of dairy and the sustainability of many plant-based alternatives. This will open the world up to new food product development.” 

For CEO of parent company Ÿnsect, Antoine Hubert, the study ‘once again’ demonstrates mealworm’s beneficial effects on both performance and health.

“After having demonstrated the effects of the protein on cholesterol reduction, we are now able to prove its effects on performance by comparing our insect protein to milk protein, [which is] already considered a very premium ingredient.”

Website Link (Article by Flora Southey)

Published by RenSun Lee

Kia ora! Sustainability is at the core of my soul ever since I was a kid. I always strive to finish the food on my plate and live as a minimalist. I love to cut down on waste in order to live sustainably and harmoniously with our planet. This brings me to my passion as a Food Scientist to integrate new technologies into innovative and creative solutions to meet customer demands and market trends and to optimize products and processes for quality, savings and sustainability. To these goals, I have published a Journal on my work on sustainable packaging and patented a new Antimicrobial wash. Nothing is more satisfying than working hard and smart at the workplace and playing hard outside of working hours. I enjoy rejuvenating myself through spending quality time with my two adorable kids and my awesome soul mate and getting close to nature when possible, be it gardening, tramping or going to the beach. I also love to learn about our magnificent universe and how sustainability is working in the grand scheme of things. I strongly believe that Work, Life & Balance is the key to a healthy state of mind, both physically and mentally. I look forward to making a positive difference wherever and whenever I can. Through this Blog, I hope to catalog recent Food Trends and Food Technologies that I come across so that anyone who is interested can have access to it (articles and resources). Please use these resources at your discretion. On top of that, I would also like to share related news and technologies of the future that would help mankind advance towards a Type 1 Civilization. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share and contribute to the “Resources“. I would like to thank you in advance for dropping by. I sincerely hope that you can benefit from the recent Food Trends and Food Technologies I catalogued. Kind regards | Ngā mihi RenSun Lee

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