Are insects the new salmon? Studies show high omega-3 content in bug-based oils.
We reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from infancy through to adulthood. With current research discovering the many roles that the right kind of fats play in preventing disease, as well as ameliorating certain disease states, finding sustainable sources is becoming a priority.
These days, most omega-3 supplements are sourced from algal or fish oil. While the newest trend in omega-3s may initially make your skin crawl, post-doctoral researcher Dr. Daylan Tzompa-Sosa of Wageningen University in The Netherlands believes that increased public awareness and education may have you reconsidering insect oils. Crickets, mealworms and cockroaches may be the next salmon.
Tzompa-Sosa is examining the feasibility of harvesting various insect-extracted omega-3-rich oils as a sustainable alternative to fish oils due to the low environmental impact of rearing insects. Insects have a high nutritional profile, providing a good source of protein and naturally producing fatty acids.
The goal of the research is to determine the nutritional quality of several reared insects to find which insect oils are rich in omega-3 concentration upon lipid extraction. In addition, researchers will look for oils that have the mildest, most acceptable flavour. “Most of the analyzed insects have compounds related to grass, sweet or citrus aromas,” explains Tzompa-Sosa.
As with fish, there are significantly higher omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in wild insects compared to those bred in captivity. Nevertheless, the potential of insect farming for omega-3 oils warrants further research, with the hope that feed for the critters may alter their omega-3 profile.
“In our lab, we have analyzed the fatty acid profile of several insects, and so far we have found that an edible insect from Zimbabwe has the highest amount of omega-3s,” Tzompa-Sosa explains.