MIGHTi Current Projects:

“What’s Hopping? Edible Crickets and the Human Microbiome” [An Exploratory Pilot Study – Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo Controlled Crossover Design]

Authors: Valerie Stull, Eli Finer, Rachel Bergmans, Hallie Febvre, Jonathan Patz, and Tiffany L. Weir

The nutritional composition of several insects has been characterized, but this study is the first of its kind to analyze health impacts beyond nutrition. Insects contain chitin and other dietary fibers that may impact gut microbiota and subsequently human health. In this pilot study, we evaluated the effects of consuming a commercially available, 100% whole cricket powder (Gryllodes sigillatus) on gut microbiota composition and functional capacity in healthy adults to determine if it has negative, neutral, or positive impacts on the microbiome. Results demonstrate that cricket consumption is tolerable and non-toxic at the treatment dose. Consumption resulted in lower-excreted acetate and propionate compared to the control. Additionally, cricket powder appeared to act as a prebiotic that supports growth of Bifidobacterium animalis, a commensal bacterial species known to confer health benefits. More research is needed to understand the effect and mechanism by which cricket consumption influences the microbiome.

“Edible Insects as Totems: Entomophagy and Food Security in a Zambian Village”

Authors: Valerie Stull, Mukata Wamulume, Mwangala Ireen Mwalukanga, Alisad Banda, Rachel Bergmans, and Michael Bell

This manuscript outlines findings from an ethnographic case study of Kazoka village, Zambia. It highlights current perceptions and social beliefs surrounding edible insects and details important considerations for insect agriculture efforts in the future. Findings suggest that edible insects are not valued equally in this community. Edible insects are understood socially and serve as a totem, or reflection of society, reinforcing values related to class, urbanism, gender, and age. Additionally, social values attached to edible insects may determine the receptivity of communities to minilivestock. Minilivestock systems and initiatives designed to maximize output, minimize labor, and highlight benefits are more likely to be widely socially accepted.

“A Survey of Entomophagy in Lusaka Province, Zambia”

Authors: Valerie Stull, Mukata Wamulume, Mwangala Irene Mwalukanga, Alisad Banda, and Rachel Bergmans

This paper details findings from a baseline survey of entomophagy practices and perceptions in Lusaka province, Zambia. Results demonstrate that most respondents have a favorable view of edible insects, view them as healthy, and are interested in minilivestock farming, particularly if the insect is familiar. Differences in entomophagy behaviors were more linked to geography and age than to food security status or income.

“Growth Performance & Nutritional Value of Tenebrio molitor Reared on Agricultural Byproduct from Maize Production”

Authors: Valerie Stull, Marjorie Kersten, Rachel Bergmans, Jonathan Patz, and Susan Paskewitz

This study investigates maize stover as a potential feedstock for edible insects. Stover was strategically selected for analyses due to the prolific nature of the crop in Zambia. While many edible insects thrive on grains, identifying feedstocks for insects that do not divert human food to insect feed is crucial. Results indicate that stover is a feasible feedstock for edible T. molitor larvae, though it does slow growth and development compared to other grain-based feedstocks. The nutrient composition of T. molitor also changes depending on feed substrate.

“Insect Eating – Trend with traction? How to fork up the benefits”

Authors: Valerie Stull and Jonathan Patz

This perspectives piece highlights how minilivestock represent an underdeveloped, under-researched, and under-utilized food and feed source. It outlines how research and policy action to support the entomophagy movement represent a golden opportunity with substantial benefits for human and planetary health moving forward.

“Biological pathways by which insect consumption may alleviate moderate acute malnutrition using a mouse model”

Authors: Rachel Bergmans; Federico Rey; Valerie Stull; Kristen Malecki

Using a mouse model, the goal of this study is to evaluate the impact of supplementing protein-deficient diets with cricket powder on metabolic, nutritional, and immune function biomarkers compared to whey-based supplementation. As an exploratory objective, we also aim to investigate the role gut microbiota may play in mediating the ability of cricket powder supplementation to improve biological associated with malnutrition. This study will be the first of its kind by providing empirical evidence regarding the viability of insects for the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). Similar impacts on biological outcomes due to insect-based dietary supplementation and fortified food supplementation would indicate that insect consumption may be an equally effective yet more sustainable means to address MAM.

“Nutrient composition and growth performance of edible T. molitor reared on fermented agricultural byproduct from maize production”

Authors: Valerie Stull, Xiaoxuan Lin, Rachel Bergmans, Jonathan Patz, and Susan Paskewitz

“The Future Has Barely Begun: A review of current literature on edible insect cultivation and semi-cultivation for food in low-resource settings”

Authors: Valerie Stull, Wendy Lu McGil, Rachel Bergmans, Susan Paskewitz, and Charles Spillane, Peter McKeowne