By Gatonye Gathura
Cooking oil from edible insects including crickets and locusts may soon be competing with popular vegetable oil brands in Kenya.
Local scientists have extracted, tested, and reported cooking oil from crickets and locusts to be highly nutritious, ‘tasty’ and acceptable.
The scientists compared oils from the two types of insects to olive and sesame plant oils and report that fat from the crawlies tostand a good chance of acceptance.
The team from the Nairobi based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), had used the insects’ and plants’ oils to prepare cookies that were tried on a panel of 103 judges.
Their results published in the journal Foods, say oil from the insects was much more nutritious compared to sesame or olive oils.
“Our results showed that the insect oils were compositionally richer in omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and vitamin E than the plant oils,” says the study.
The insect oils had been derived from the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria and the African bush-cricket called Ruspolia differens which had been reared at Icipe.
The scientists say consumer acceptance was highest for cookies prepared with cricket oils at 90 per cent and sesame at 89 per cent compared to the other oils.
More than 80 per cent of panelist, the report says preferred the colour of cookies baked with sesame, olive, and crickets oils.
However, on aroma and taste, less than 20 per cent off panelists recommended cookies baked with the insect oils.
Up to a third and a quarter of the panelists said they were willing to pay for cookies made with cricket and locust oils respectively. A much bigger number, however, said they would buy sesame oil cookies any time.
The results show that of the two edible insects, the African bush-cricket as a better source of oil in terms of both quality and quantity than the desert locust.
But both insects had a higher presence of fatty acids, flavonoids – antioxidant that protects cells from damage- and vitamin E than in plant oils.
These nutrients, the authors say can be used to fortify other less nutritious foods especially for those people who would find it uneasy to eat whole insects.
The high levels of vitamin E in the insect oils, the report says can also help consumers reduce cell damage, maintain skin health, and support the immune system.
The researchers also recorded oleic acid in the insect oils which they say is a cholesterol-lowering agent and has anticancer potential in humans.
Despite some setbacks, the researchers say the exercise was a major success and bods well for the future of insect-eating in Kenya.
“Our findings show that integrating edible insect oils into cookies entices people to “take the first step” in eating insects.”
By starting with insect oils prepared cookies, the authors says one can reduce the fear of eating the crawlies “thereby, contributing to consumers’ acceptance of the baked products.”
In the last few years, there have been concerted efforts by local researchers and donors to promote insect-eating habits as a means of fighting hunger in the country.