Estimate of chitin in raw whole insects

Zoo Biol. 2007 Mar;26(2):105-15. doi: 10.1002/zoo.20123.


Insects contain significant amounts of fiber as measured by crude fiber, acid detergent fiber (ADF) or neutral detergent fiber (NDF). It has always been assumed that the fiber in insects represents chitin based on the structural similarity between cellulose and chitin and the fact that the ADF fraction from insects contains nitrogen. In this study, a number of insect species that are raised commercially as food for insectivores were analyzed for moisture, crude protein (nitrogen x 6.25), fat, ash, NDF, ADF, and amino acids. Additionally, the ADF fraction was analyzed for nitrogen and amino acids to determine if proteins might be present in the ADF fraction. The ADF fraction contained a significant amount of amino acids accounting for 9.3-32.7% of the ADF (by weight). The presence of amino acids in the ADF fraction means that using ADF to estimate insect chitin results in an overestimation of insect chitin content. Using ADF adjusted for its amino acid content, the estimated chitin content of these insect species ranged from 2.7-49.8 mg/kg (as is) and 11.6-137.2 mg/kg (dry matter basis). Additionally, these data suggest that for the species measured here the amount of chitin nitrogen is quite small (as a % of total nitrogen) and that crude protein (nitrogen x 6.25) provides a reasonable estimate of the true protein for most species of insects. Zoo Biol 0:1-11, 2007. (c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.