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What are the health benefits of chitin?

Read to learn more about:

  • What chitin is
  • Health benefits of chitin
  • How you can consume more chitin
  • How cricket powder is good source of chitin
  • How to use/consume cricket powder

But before we start, did you know that chitin is pronounced “ky-tin”?


What is chitin?


Chitin is a fibrous biopolymer consisting of polysaccharides. It’s the major constituent of the exoskeletons of arthropods like insects and crustaceans, and the cell walls of fungi.


So yes, chitin is found in the exoskeleton of insects like crickets just as it is in the shells of crab, lobster and shrimp. And this shared feature is not surprising, since we know that insects like crickets evolved from crustaceans.


What are the health benefits of chitin?


→  Chitin and probiotic growth


Research suggests that chitin has prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that serve as a food source forprobiotics, which are the good bacteria in your gut.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, 20 participants ate 25 grams of cricket powder in muffins or smoothies for breakfast every day for two weeks. Chitin is found in cricket powder (also known as cricket flour or cricket protein powder) because it’s not actually a protein isolate—it’s simply 100% of the crickets milled down to a powder that is high in both protein and chitin among other vitamins and minerals.

The researchers found that cricket powder supported 5.7x growth of a probiotic bacteria called bifidobacterium animalis, which has been linked to improved gastrointestinal function.

Although the study authors note that more research is needed to fully understand these effects, their results suggest that the chitin in cricket flour—which is understood to be a prebiotic fiber—may contribute to a healthier digestive system.



→ Chitin and reduced systemic inflammation

Two empirical studies point to the ingestion of chitin being linked to reduced inflammation in the body.

In the previously mentioned cricket powder study, in addition to probiotic growth in the gut, the consumption of cricket powder was linked to reduced plasma TNF-α, a sign of systemic inflammation. The results of this study suggest that eating crickets may not only improve gut health, but also reduce inflammation which is itself linked to other health risks such as depression and cancer. Again, more studies and especially larger ones should be conducted to corroborate this evidence and better understand the underlying mechanisms.

That said, another recent study drew similar conclusions.


According to ScienceDaily, which reports on scientific research, Yoshimi Shibata, Ph.D., an immunologist and professor of biomedical science at Florida Atlantic University, in collaboration with researchers at Virginia Tech and Harvard, found that the ingestion of chitin (in this case extracted from crab, shrimp and lobster shells) had anti-inflammatory mechanisms that could lead to new solutions for individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), both preventative and therapeutic.


Current medical treatments for IBD include antibiotics, cortisone-like medications, and other anti-inflammatory drugs that are expensive, have questionable efficacy and unintended consequences. Antibiotics, for instance, wipe out all bacteria, good and bad, leaving a vulnerable microbiome behind.


Naturopathy and functional medicine are much more supportive of lifestyle and diet as a means to building a healthy gut flora: consuming probiotics, including through fermented foods, and prebiotic fiber to feed the probiotics (that’s where chitin comes in), cutting refined sugars and excess sugar, regularly exercising, and reducing stress among other things.     


How can I consume more chitin?


Chitin is the main constituent of of the exoskeleton of crickets. And since cricket powder is simply roasted, finally ground crickets (100% of the insect), it contains high levels of chitin.  


Adding cricket powder to your diet can be a part of a gut-healthy lifestyle thanks to the chitin it naturally contains - apart from the benefits of its other components (complete protein, vitamin B12, iron, potassium and calcium).  


You can also get chitin by consuming finally milled crustacean (usually crab) shells, but the benefit of consuming chitin through Crickstart cricket powder is that it’s organic, non-GMO, Canadian farmed and super sustainable - and because it has other benefits.


You can add cricket protein powder to your smoothie, nut butter, yogurt, oatmeal, stew and more!


Or you can check out our pre-made organic food bars, crackers, and protein powders all made with cricket flour and delicious plant-based ingredients.



***


Two billion people consume insects regularly. Will you be one of them?


Here’s why you might want to consider saying “yes!”: your health. Edible insects—like crickets—are rich in chitin, a substance believed to xyz.


Keep reading to learn more about:

  • What chitin is
  • Health benefits of chitin
  • Other benefits of chitin
  • Chitin nutrition facts
  • How cricket powder is made
  • How to use cricket powder

One last thing before we proceed: did you know chitin is pronounced “ky-tin,”not“chit-in”?


What is chitin?


Chitin is found in insect exoskeletons.


More specifically, chitin is a biopolymer that forms a hard external shell. It’s also found in the cell walls of some bacteria and fungi.


You might remember learning about exoskeletons in school: whereas humans and other vertebrates have an internal skeleton (called an endoskeleton), insects have an external skeleton.


This exoskeleton develops on the outside of the insect’s body. Exoskeletons are also a characteristic of arachnids (spiders), myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, and others), and crustaceans (shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and others).


(In fact, all these animals—along with insects—are classified asarthropods, from the Greek for “jointed leg,” because they all have exoskeletons with joints.)


In crickets, the exoskeleton is composed of chitin and proteins (called sclerotin).


Here at Crickstart, we offer cricket protein powders that naturally contain chitin.


What are the health benefits of chitin?


According to a paper titled “Health Benefits of Algal Polysaccharides in Human Nutrition,” chitin has been considered a “functional fiber.”


The term “functional fiber” relates to how chitin may act like fiber in the digestive tract. Insoluble fibers, such as lignin and cellulose, are not broken down in the gut. Instead, they remain undigested, contributing to the faster and more “regular” passage of food and waste through your digestive system.


Researchers are currently investigating whether chitin has prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that serve as a food source forprobiotics, which are the good bacteria in your gut.


In a study published in Scientific Reports, 20 participants ate 25 grams of powdered cricket meal—aka cricket protein powder—for breakfast every day for two weeks. (Don’t worry, they weren’t forced to eat plain powder; the cricket meal was used as an ingredient in muffins and smoothies. Yum!)

The researchers found that cricket powder supported growth of the probiotic bacterium, Bifidobacterium animalis, which has been linked to improved gastrointestinal function. According to CTV News, they also found “a decrease in an inflammatory protein in the blood called TNF-alpha, which has been linked to other measures of well-being, like depression and cancer.”

Although the study authors note that more research is needed to fully understand these effects, their results suggest the chitin in cricket powder—which is thought to be a form of prebiotic fiber—may contribute to a healthier digestive system.


So while we wait for more scientific evidence to be collected, you might benefit from chitin if you have digestive issues, would like to lose weight, or are just looking to add more fiber to your diet.


Does chitin have any other benefits?


Yes! As a food source, chitin—and crickets as a whole—are sustainable (non-resource-intensive to produce), clean (organic, non-GMO), and convenient.


In terms of industrial applications, chitin is quite similar to cellulose, which holds vegetable cells together. But whereas cellulose is widely used in industry—paper, cellophane, and rayon are all produced from the cellulose in wood pulp and cotton—the uses of chitin are just beginning to be explored.


According to xtendlife.com, chitin is used in the food industry as a food thickener and stabilizer, and it can also be turned into edible antimicrobial film (like an edible plastic wrap!).


How can I consume more chitin?


Add cricket protein powder to your smoothie, oatmeal, or stew.

Or check out our selection of pre-made bars, crackers, and smoothies—great for healthy snacks.


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