New Research Encourages Zimbabweans To Eat Insects To Boost Nutrition

FINDINGS from a new research by local nutritionists has found high crude protein content in at least three edible insects available in Zimbabwe which could go a long way in alleviating rampart cases of under-nutrition and malnutrition.

By Michael Gwarisa

The research dubbed “PROTEIN QUALITY OF COMMONLY CONSUMED EDIBLE INSECTS IN ZIMBABWE” was conducted between 2015 and 2017 and authored by Dexter Chagwena a nutritionists in the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC) department, Matanhire GT,  Jombo TZ and CC Maponga.

Commenting on the findings of the research, Chagwena said preventing cases of protein deficiency has always been a challenge because in most cases, protein-rich diets- the often prescribed solution are usually expensive.

The cheaper alternative sources for some rural communities include edible insects and these have not been thoroughly investigated. This motivated us to conduct this study where we evaluated protein quality of edible insects commonly consumed in Zimbabwe and other African countries.

“The crude protein content was high in the three edible insects we evaluated; Locusta migratoria (locusts) – 71%, Imbrasia belina Mopane worms) (58%) and Encosternum delegorguei (stinkbug) – 31%. This shows that these edible insects were quite high in protein content and this was comparable to other studies in African countries,” said Chagwena.

He added that protein quality was an important marker of the value of a dietary protein and  animal protein is of high quality that is why animal foods are mainly recommended as a good protein source.

[pullquote]”In our results we found that protein quality of these three edible insects was comparable to that of casein, a known high quality animal protein. Protein efficiency ratio was lower in insect samples L. migratoria (2.3), I. Belina (1.96), E. delegorguei (2.0) compared to control casein (2.5). There was a significant difference (p<0.05) in protein efficiency ratio between the three edible insects and casein.[/pullquote]

“Protein digestibility of the three insects (I. belina-92%, L. migratoria-90%, E. delegorguei-92%) was high and comparable to that of casein (96%). There was no significant difference (p>0.05) in protein digestibility between the three insect protein sources and casein. The results showed high protein quality of three edible insects commonly consumed in Zimbabwe comparable to casein, a high quality animal protein. High protein digestibility of edible insects indicated ease in absorption and improved utilisation in the body.”

He also said identifying good alternative protein-sources to animal meat that contribute to improved health and prevention of malnutrition was very key especially considering that protein-energy malnutrition is still prevalent in many African countries, and can be prevented by edible insects which are vast in these countries, you can see the whole puzzle fitting in.

“These kind of study results juggles up the minds of policymakers into thinking of ways to ensure increased production and consumption of edible insects in developing and rural settings. This is a cheap alternative protein source to animal protein. Beyond livestock and small animal production, one can see edible insects farming as a solution that African countries need.

“That is why policymakers should care about these study results. If they create that conducive environment with relevant policies to promote production and consumption of these edible insects, improve our diets and making them diversified, we will eradicate these nutrient deficiency diseases we continue to face.”

Edible insects are vast in these countries and already being consumed by many people. Increased production and consumption could alleviate protein deficiency in these countries. He also said there is also a need to incorporate edible insects in modern food and develop modern recipes and foods derived from these insects to improve consumption and acceptance by the young generation. That way, edible insects will play a key role in food security of Zimbabwe and other sub-Saharan Africa countries.

“Generally sub-Saharan African countries are common for protein-lacking diets. Other regions where protein-deficient diets are common include Southern Asia and Latin America. However, when we discuss about edible insects we are also interested in other nutrients they consist, minerals and vitamins which are also affecting many parts of the world. This study did not cover this aspect but it is important as well.”


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