Saboor Ahmad, Shufa Xu Science Reviews - Biology, 2023, 2(3), 8 - 17
Emerging Trends of Human Consumption of Insects
and Their Future Conservation
Saboor Ahmad, PhD
and Shufa Xu, PhD
State Key Laboratory of Resource Insects, The Institute of Apicultural Research, Chinese Academy of Agricul-
tural Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
*Corresponding author: Professor Dr. Shufa Xu,
Received September 08, 2023. Revised October 27, 2023. Accepted October 30, 2023. Published online October 31, 2023.
Abstract: In recent years, there has been a notable surge in the global interest surrounding the consumption of
insects, known as entomophagy. This trend is propelled by its potential to address various pressing challenges.
Entomophagy is deeply rooted in many cultures historically and is regarded as a sustainable solution to
contemporary problems such as food security, environmental sustainability, and public health. In this context,
this paper explores the emerging trends in human insect consumption and underscores conservation's pivotal
role in securing the future of edible insects. This study unveils the multifaceted benefits of entomophagy by
emphasizing the cultural significance of insects as a food source, their environmental advantages, and their
potential to improve nutrition and reduce the ecological footprint of food production. Notably, various insects
such as crickets, grasshoppers, termites, mealworms, and silkworm provide the primary sources of the human
diet, including proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Simultaneously, this review sheds light on the challenges
posed by overexploitation, and habitat destruction, necessitating robust strategies for insect conservation. The
paper advocates for sustainable harvesting, habitat restoration, public education and awareness, and innovative
market strategies as critical tools for preserving insect biodiversity while promoting responsible insect
consumption. Ultimately, entomophagy and insect conservation convergence presents an intriguing paradigm
for a more sustainable and resilient global food system.
Keywords: Entomophagy, food security, nutritional supplements, conservation strategies, edible insects
Numerous forecasts indicate that the population is
expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050, globally . The
growing population necessitates a nearly twofold
increase in current food production . Moreover, en-
vironmental degradation and climate change result-
ing from industrialization also adversely impact
food productivity . Insects, those tiny, often misun-
derstood creatures that share our planet, have been
a part of human diets for centuries in various cul-
tures across the globe . According to the 2013
FAO/WUR report on edible insects, which states
that approximately two billion people are estimated
to consume insects . Recently, there has been an in-
creasing fascination with consuming insects as a
sustainable and nourishing dietary option . This
emerging trend, entomophagy, promises to address
many of the challenges associated with traditional
livestock production, from environmental sustaina-
bility to global food security . Moreover, edible in-
sects represent another option, contributing to food
security, particularly in Africa, where insect con-
sumption has a rich historical tradition . In addition,
edible insects represent a rich protein, fats, vitamins,
and minerals reservoir . Crickets and grasshoppers,
in particular, stand out for their high protein con-
tent, with edible insects typically containing be-
tween 35 to 60 g protein/ 100 g or 10 to 25 g/100 g
of dry and fresh weight, respectively .
In many regions, insects have a long history of be-
ing culturally accepted as a food source . They offer
Science Reviews - Biology, 2023, 2(3), 8 17 Saboor Ahmad, Shufa Xu
significant nutritional benefits for human consump-
tion . Europe and the United States are witnessing
the most rapid growth in the edible insect industry,
driven in part by a trend toward reduced meat con-
sumption . Despite the numerous benefits, several
obstacles persist in developing insect-based foods
due to their divergence from conventional Western
dietary habits . The field of insect foods is currently
in a transitional phase, with a promising approach
involving the fusion of protein-processing technol-
ogy with insects to create novel food products.
Given the current scenario of a rapidly increasing
global population, the challenge lies in achieving ef-
ficient and sustainable land use for agriculture
while conserving biodiversity . Extensive scientific
research and conservation efforts over the years
have underscored that habitat loss, degradation,
and the impacts of climate change are the primary
stressors affecting insects and various other ecolog-
ical groups .
For centuries, indigenous cultures across South
America, Europe, Asia, and Africa have incorpo-
rated various insect species into their diets . Moreo-
ver, 2,000 insect species are consumed in 113 coun-
tries . To provide a specific example, a survey con-
ducted in Thailand, identified a staggering insect
species (164) being traded as food . Among these,
the most frequently consumed insects include bee-
tles, bees, caterpillars, ants, grasshoppers, crickets,
and locusts . In regions like Zambia, Zimbabwe, and
Nigeria, edible insects have become readily availa-
ble in open markets and school cafeterias, establish-
ing a profitable industry . Remarkably, insects con-
tribute up to 50% of the dietary protein intake, and
their market value surpasses other protein sources .
The exploration of emerging trends in human con-
sumption of insects and their future conservation is
paramount due to its potential to address pressing
global challenges. With a growing global popula-
tion and increasing strain on conventional livestock
production systems, entomophagy offers a sustain-
able alternative source of protein that is highly effi-
cient in resource utilization. Understanding and
promoting insect consumption can significantly
contribute to mitigating the environmental impacts
of traditional livestock farming, including green-
house gas emissions and deforestation while
providing a nutritious and culturally rich food
source. Moreover, as the practice gains traction, it
raises vital questions about conserving insect
species and their ecosystems, as overharvesting and
habitat destruction could threaten biodiversity.
Therefore, delving into these emerging trends is the
key to a more sustainable, diverse, and resilient fu-
ture for our diets and the planet. Thus, this review
highlights the prevailing trends concerning the uti-
lization of insects as food resources within con-
sumer behavior, industry practices, academic re-
search and their conservation.
Nutritional value of insects as food resources
Beyond their environmental advantages, insects
also offer a range of nutritional benefits (Van Huis
and Oonincx, 2017). Insects boast substantial pro-
tein content, ranging from 35% to 61%, and notable
lipid levels fall between 13% and 33% (Ojha et al.,
2021). Furthermore, insects contain a noteworthy
quantity of "animal" fiber in the form of insoluble
chitin. In addition to their macronutrient content,
certain insect species are recognized for their abun-
dant mineral and vitamin profiles (Ojha et al., 2021).
For instance, crickets are a good source of protein,
containing all nine essential amino acids (Mafu et
al., 2022). They are also rich in B vitamins, iron, and
zinc (Figure 1). In addition to being nutritious, in-
sects are low in fat, making them an attractive op-
tion for those seeking a lean protein source. Edible
insects are noteworthy for their potential health ad-
vantages, primarily attributed to their abundant
content of vitamin B12, essential amino acids, iron,
dietary fiber, zinc, omega-3 and 6, fatty acids, as
well as antioxidants (Nowakowski et al., 2022) (Ta-
ble 1). Recent reports highlight the utilization of
palm weevil larvae as an ingredient in snacks,
aimed at augmenting the snacks' protein and min-
eral content owing to the larvae's exceptional nutri-
tional value (Akande et al., 2020). Furthermore,
cookies containing palm weevil larvae have been
shown to possess enhanced nutritional profiles
while also receiving commendable sensory evalua-
tion scores and widespread acceptance (Ayensu et
al., 2019). Specifically, Cirina butyrospermi has the
potential to serve as a valuable source of crucial pol-
yunsaturated fatty acids, offering numerous health
advantages, and its substantial protein content un-
derscores the significance of giving this species
greater recognition in nutritional research
(Anankware et al., 2021). Incorporating edible in-
sects into human nutrition holds the potential for a
wide range of advantages (Tang et al., 2019),
Saboor Ahmad, Shufa Xu Science Reviews - Biology, 2023, 2(3), 8 17
encompassing reduced greenhouse gas emissions,
decreased land and water use in agriculture, better
management and prevention of chronic diseases
such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular condi-
tions, and enhanced immune system function
(Nowakowski et al., 2022). Moreover, insects con-
tain bioactive compounds that could mitigate
health hazards. The safety risks of insect consump-
tion are minimal primarily linked to allergenic con-
cerns (Van Huis et al., 2021).
Table 1. Different edible insects and their nutritional value
A, B, C, D. E
and K
Macro- and
elements, in-
cluding Ca, K,
P, Mg, Fe, Na,
Zn, Mn, and
B12, Niacin
and as high in
Zn, Mg, and
Niacin, reti-
nol, ribofla-
vin, B5, B6,
B9, and B12
Ca, Mg, K, Na,
P, Fe, Zn, Mn,
and Cu,
A and C
Ca, Na, Mg,
Zn, Fe, Cu, and
kcl/100 g
A, B1, B2, B3,
B5, B7, B9,
B12, C, and E
P, Fe, Ca, Zn,
Mn, and Cr
Food safety from edible insect
Humans have been consuming insects for centuries
and surprisingly, the scientific literature is scarce
addressing the food safety aspects of insect con-
sumption (Mézes and Erdélyi, 2020). While the nu-
tritional benefits of edible insects are evident, it is
essential to acknowledge that concerns regarding
food safety, including microorganisms, allergies,
and toxicity, may become more prominent among
consumers. In terms of allergies, certain edible in-
sects have been found to contain proteins that can
trigger allergic reactions in individuals who are also
allergic to arachnids and crustaceans due to cross-
reactivity (Ribeiro et al., 2018). Specific heavy met-
als raise concerns within the context of insect
Science Reviews - Biology, 2023, 2(3), 8 17 Saboor Ahmad, Shufa Xu
consumption. Cadmium levels are of particular
concern in black soldier flies, while arsenic is a no-
table issue regarding yellow mealworm larvae (van
der Fels-Klerx et al., 2018). The investigated myco-
toxins do not tend to accumulate significantly in
these insects. Additionally, it has been observed
that insect specimens may occasionally contain vet-
erinary drugs, residues of pesticides, hormones, di-
oxins, and PCBs (van der Fels-Klerx et al., 2018,
Meyer et al., 2021). Moreover, five categories of bio-
logical risk factors, ten chemical risk factors, and
thirteen physical risk factors have also been recog-
nized (Gałęcki et al., 2023). These risk maps are val-
uable tools for pinpointing potential hazards, such
as foodborne pathogens, within diverse insect spe-
cies and insect-based food products (Gałęcki et al.,
2023) as well as necessitating a comprehensive as-
sessment of allergenic risks before their safe intro-
duction into the food market (Ribeiro et al., 2021).
However, there are different other routes of con-
tamination as indicated in Figure 1 (Gałęcki et al.,
Figure 1: Schematic diagram of edible insects.
Promoting food safety and hygiene practices
throughout the entire edible insect supply chain, in-
cluding wild harvesting, is crucial to guarantee the
availability of this highly nutritious and resource-
efficient food to consumers without posing any
health risks (Imathiu, 2020). Another pressing con-
cern is the need for more regulations governing the
edible insect supply chain, a deficiency prevalent in
numerous countries, particularly developing na-
tions. Addressing this issue urgently can enhance
consumer trust and facilitate the international trade
of this commodity (Imathiu, 2020). Furthermore, in-
sect processing must adhere to the Hazard Analysis
Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles and its
prerequisite programs. Strict adherence to these
guidelines will ensure the production of safe prod-
ucts, enabling consumers to harness the outstand-
ing nutritional benefits of insects and their derived
Delicious and sustainable: Persuasive strategies to
encourage insect consumption:
Strategies to persuade consumers to embrace insect
consumption encompass highlighting the nutri-
tional adequacy of insects, incorporating insects
discreetly into familiar products (Musundire et al.,
Saboor Ahmad, Shufa Xu Science Reviews - Biology, 2023, 2(3), 8 17
2021). Enhancing the flavor profile of insect-based
products. Offering consumers, a captivating taste
experience and promoting insect-based products
primarily based on taste (Kröger et al., 2022). Fur-
nishing comprehensive information about insect
products, acknowledging that sustainability may
not be the most compelling factor. Leveraging ce-
lebrity endorsements to endorse the product
(Cuomo et al., 2019). Tailoring marketing efforts to-
wards specific demographics, such as thrill-seekers
or children. Devising market strategies, including
using stylish imagery and selecting supermarkets
for distribution (van Huis and Rumpold, 2023). In
addition, uncover genuine health advantages, delve
into authentic benefits, investigate ways to enhance
insect farming and food processing methods, ana-
lyze cultural obstacles to widespread acceptance,
and tackle pertinent food regulations and compli-
ance issues (Mason et al., 2018). Moreover, the reg-
ulations do not permit the consumption of all po-
tential insect species as food and animal feed (Läht-
eenmäki-Uutela et al., 2021). Governments are com-
mitted to guaranteeing food and feed safety, and
each nation has its distinct sets of rules and proce-
dures to achieve this objective (Lähteenmäki-Uutela
et al., 2021). Nevertheless, countries' diverse regula-
tory requirements and disparities create complexi-
ties in developing international marketing strate-
gies for insect-based products (Lähteenmäki-Uutela
et al., 2021).
Strategies for insect Conservation:
There are reasons for optimism regarding insect
conservation. Innovative approaches, modern tech-
nology, and improved data access enhance our un-
derstanding of global insect biodiversity. An ex-
panding community of researchers from various
fields sheds light on how environmental factors and
human activities affect insect species and ecosys-
tems (Didham et al., 2020). The main strategies for
insects conservation (Figure 1) are given below:
1. Habitat Restoration:
Implementing regulations on insect harvesting to
prevent overexploitation:
This involves creating and enforcing rules and
guidelines that control the harvesting of insects .
The aim is to ensure that the collection of insects is
within sustainable levels, thereby preventing their
populations from being depleted . Meanwhile,
certain wild edible insects can be considered pests
to valuable crops. Therefore, harvesting and
incorporating these edible insect pests into our diet
and using them for therapeutic applications could
represent a noteworthy advancement in biological
pest control .
Promoting responsible harvesting practices
among insect farmers:
Encouraging those involved in insect farming to
adopt responsible and sustainable methods when
collecting insects . This can include guidelines on
harvesting techniques, timing, and quotas to
maintain healthy insect populations . Moreover,
preserving traditional methods of conservation,
harvesting, and consumption, establishing large-
scale captive breeding programs, and fortifying
resilient value chains to encourage the participation
of local communities .
2. Habitat Restoration:
Efforts to restore and protect natural habitats that
support insect populations:
This strategy focuses on rehabilitating and preserv-
ing the natural environments where insects live and
thrive . Restoring these habitats provides insects
with the necessary ecosystems to sustain their pop-
Promoting urban green spaces to create insect-
friendly environments:
Green spaces with diverse vegetation and suitable
habitats can support insect populations in urban ar-
eas. These spaces can act as refuges for insects in en-
vironments dominated by human development .
3. Education and Awareness:
Raising public awareness about the importance of
insect conservation:
Educating the general public about why insects are
crucial to ecosystems and the environment. This
awareness can increase support for conservation ef-
forts and a better understanding of insects' role in
our world.
Educating consumers on responsible insect con-
Furthermore, to foster the expansion of the edible
insect industry, engaging in consumer education
and implementing effective marketing tactics is es-
sential . This also includes knowing which insects
are safe to consume and how to do so without harm-
ing the species or their ecosystems.
Science Reviews - Biology, 2023, 2(3), 8 17 Saboor Ahmad, Shufa Xu
These strategies collectively aim to strike a balance
between human activities, including insect con-
sumption, and the preservation of insect popula-
tions and their habitats. By implementing these
measures, we can help ensure insects' long-term
survival and well-being while harnessing their po-
tential benefits sustainably.
In conclusion, the emerging trends in human con-
sumption of insects represent a promising avenue
for addressing pressing global challenges, from
food security and environmental sustainability to
nutrition. However, as we embrace entomophagy,
we must be equally committed to conserving insect
species and their habitats. By implementing sustain-
able harvesting practices, restoring critical insect
ecosystems, and raising public awareness, we can
ensure that this culinary evolution remains in har-
mony with the imperative of preserving insect bio-
diversity. The future of insect consumption lies not
only in the nutritional and ecological benefits it of-
fers but also in our ability to strike a responsible bal-
ance between our appetites and the conservation of
these invaluable creatures.
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