Are edible insects more or less 'healthy' than commonly consumed meats? A comparison using two nutrient profiling models developed to combat over- and undernutrition.
Payne CL., Scarborough P., Rayner M., Nonaka K.
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Insects have been the subject of recent attention as a potentially environmentally sustainable and nutritious alternative to traditional protein sources. The purpose of this paper is to test the hypothesis that insects are nutritionally preferable to meat, using two evaluative tools that are designed to combat over- and under-nutrition. SUBJECTS/METHODS: We selected 183 datalines of publicly available data on the nutrient composition of raw cuts and offal of three commonly consumed meats (beef, pork and chicken), and six commercially available insect species, for energy and 12 relevant nutrients. We applied two nutrient profiling tools to this data: The Ofcom model, which is used in the United Kingdom, and the Nutrient Value Score (NVS), which has been used in East Africa. We compared the median nutrient profile scores of different insect species and meat types using non-parametric tests and applied Bonferroni adjustments to assess for statistical significance in differences. RESULTS: Insect nutritional composition showed high diversity between species. According to the Ofcom model, no insects were significantly 'healthier' than meat products. The NVS assigned crickets, palm weevil larvae and mealworm a significantly healthier score than beef (P<0.001) and chicken (P<0.001). No insects were statistically less healthy than meat. CONCLUSIONS: Insect nutritional composition is highly diverse in comparison with commonly consumed meats. The food category 'insects' contains some foods that could potentially exacerbate diet-related public health problems related to over-nutrition, but may be effective in combating under-nutrition.