NAIROBI, Kenya, May 22 – Research carried out by Kenyan scientists in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture shows that consuming the Desert Locust could be good for the heart.
The researchers drawn from the International Centre of Insect Physiology Ecology (ICIPE) and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology have found that the locusts are chock-full of plant sterols, phytosterols, which have cholesterol lowering properties.
The locusts which are widely seen as a plague in the Sahel region, given they feed on crops in swarms leading to famine, could therefore come to be seen in a more positive light and as a food source themselves.
Phytosterols which are typically found in plants but which the locusts have now been found to be a rich source of, block the absorption of artery clogging cholesterol into the intestines.
“We observed that after the Desert Locust has fed on a vegetative diet, most of the common phytosterols are amplified and new ones are also produced in its tissues. In turn, this leads to a high phytosterol content, which suggests that eating Desert Locusts could reduce cholesterol,” ICIPE Scientist Professor Baldwyn Torto explains.
Given the locusts have also been found to be rich sources of protein, fatty acids and minerals, Torto is optimistic that more research will go into harnessing its potential as a food source.
“We hope that our findings will refocus the research on the Desert Locust in a new emerging dimension; its potential as a component in food and nutritional security in Africa. Despite its negative image, the Desert Locust is already consumed in many regions in Africa and Asia. As ICIPE has proven over the years, the Desert Locust is extremely easy to rear, meaning that it could be domesticated on a small-scale,” Torto says.
Research into insects as food sources, ICIPE argues, has been necessitated by a growing global population, increased urbanisation, diminishing water and land resources as well as climate change.
Insects, they submit, also have the added advantage of being cheaper to rear and leaving a lighter ecological footprint than livestock.