Not just a fallback food: global patterns of insect consumption related to geography, not agriculture

Am J Hum Biol. 2017 Jul 8;29(4). doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22976. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


Objectives: Insects as food are often viewed as fallback resources and associated with marginal environments. This study investigates the relationship between insect consumption and noncultivated landscapes as well as with other independent variables including latitude, area, population, and gross domestic product.

Methods: Data were obtained from online databases including the World List of Edible Insects, the World Bank, and the World Factbook.

Results: A logistic regression model found that latitude could correctly predict the presence of edible insects 80% of the time and that arable land and gross domestic product showed no effect. Spearman rank-order correlation with number of insect species found significant relationships between area and population (but not density) and per capita gross domestic product as well as latitude. Further analysis of latitude using paired Mann-Whitney tests identified a general gradient pattern in reduction of edible insects with increased latitude.

Conclusions: Results suggest that insect consumption represents a dynamic human-environment interaction, whereby insects are utilized in some of the world's lushest environments as well as areas where people have had great impact on the ecosystem. The concept that insects are a fallback food is an oversimplification that is likely rooted in Western bias against this food source.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Diet* / psychology
  • Food Preferences* / psychology
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Insecta*
  • Logistic Models
  • Statistics, Nonparametric