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Mealworm shakes for breakfast? New research suggests it could be the future

Protein from mealworms are just as nutritious as a tall glass of milk, according to new research from Maastricht University published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

Image Credit: Flickr/Velacreations

Financed by FootPrint Coalition Ventures portfolio company, Ÿnsect (and its Dutch subsidiary ProtiFarm), the study indicates that insect protein is as nutritious as milk proteins — with the same performance on digestion, absorption and the ability to stimulate muscle production.

For a number of reasons, milk protein — which is made up of 80% casein and 20% whey — is viewed as the gold standard for nutrition. The research from Maastricht University showed that mealworms contained as much proteins and essential amino acids that the human body needs. That stands in contrast to plant-based proteins that don’t have the same level of essential amino acids, according to a release from Ÿnsect.

“This study demonstrates once again the exceptional qualities of the mealworm. After having demonstrated the effects of the protein on cholesterol reduction, we are now able to prove its effects on performance by comparing our insect protein to milk protein,” said Antoine Hubert, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Ÿnsect, in a statement.

The study is part of a larger push from Ÿnsect to introduce its protein-producing mealworms as a potential dietary supplement or additive for human consumption.

Ÿnsect made a name for itself in the wild world of aquaculture. With the number of fish farms exploding, demand for protein in fish food has reached gargantuan proportions. Ÿnsect was meeting that demand through the cultivation of mealworms, which pack a tremendous protein punch compared to soy or other plant-based alternatives — and they have a smaller environmental footprint.

On the back of providing proteins for les poissons, the French-based Ÿnsect has been able to raise roughly $399 million from investors (including FootPrint). Some of that funding went to acquire Protifarm earlier this year.

That acquisition followed approval from the European Food Safety Authority that allowed mealworms to be consumed across Europe.

“There are cognitive reasons derived from our social and cultural experiences — the so-called ‘yuck factor’ — that make the thought of eating insects repellent to many Europeans,” Giovanni Sogari, a social and consumer researcher at the University of Parma, told The Guardian. “With time and exposure, such attitudes can change.”

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