Interest in the consumption of insects (entomophagy) as an alternative environmentally sustainable source of protein in the diet of humans has recently witnessed a surge. Knowledge of the nutrient composition and, in particular, the bioavailability of minerals from insects is currently sparse. This study evaluated the availability of Fe, Ca, Cu, Mg, Mn, and Zn from four commonly eaten insects and compared these to sirloin beef. Soluble iron from the samples was measured by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). Iron bioavailability was determined using an in vitro simulated peptic-pancreatic digestion, followed by measurement of ferritin (a surrogate marker for iron absorption) in Caco-2 cells. Cricket and sirloin beef had comparably higher levels of Fe, Ca, and Mn than grasshopper, meal, and buffalo worms. However, iron solubility was significantly higher from the insect samples than from beef. The complementation of whole-wheat flour with insect or beef protein resulted in overall decreases in mineral content and iron solubility in the composite mixtures. Collectively, the data show that grasshopper, cricket, and mealworms contain significantly higher chemically available Ca, Cu, Mg, Mn, and Zn than sirloin. However, buffalo worms and sirloin exhibited higher iron bioavailability comparable to that of FeSO4. Commonly consumed insect species could be excellent sources of bioavailable iron and could provide the platform for an alternative strategy for increased mineral intake in the diets of humans.
Keywords: bioavailability; insects; sirloin; solubility; whole-wheat.