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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.