Insect oil: Bugs aren’t just about protein

Cockroach oil smells like vomit but grasshoppers have a fruity, pleasant aroma, says researcher

Is it time to look beyond insect protein to… insect oil? This is the next opportunity within edible bugs, says researcher.

Dr Daylan Tzompa-Sosa, a researcher at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, said the fashion for protein research had blinded the scientific community to an important prospect within edible insects: fats and oil.

Tzompa-Sosa said she had seen the opportunity when her colleagues were working on a protein project funded by the Dutch government. Her fellow researchers were discarding the oil as they isolated the protein.

Insects have fallen into the spotlight in recent years as a possible solution to increasing pressures on global food supplies fueled by a growing global population.

But it’s not just protein sources that put pressure on resources and the environment, oils like soy, sunflower and palm also take up great swathes of land to produce oil.

"It is important to know there are other sources that are just as good," Tzompa-Sosa said. "There are some companies in the Netherlands that are starting to be serious about the extraction of proteins [from insects], so if this happens then the oil will be a by product and then, well, we better use it." 

As part of an ongoing spinoff project of the FAO-funded research, she was testing the properties of oils from various insects including the flour maggot, beetle larvae, cockroach and cricket.

But can she envisage consumers choosing cockroach oil over olive oil?

Globally, the most commonly consumed insects are beetles (31%), caterpillars (18%) and bees, wasps and ants (14%).  

This was followed by grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13%), cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects and true bugs (10%), termites (3%), dragonflies (3%), flies (2%) and others (5%).

Chewing the fat  

Not all insects would be suitable for edible oils. Cockroach oil smelt “especially disgusting” and something like vomit, she said.

“This oil would never be intended for human consumption, also because of the perception. It might be easy to market cricket oil, for example, but there is no way you could market a cockroach oil I would say just because of the idea of it.”

Cockroaches are notoriously resistant and breed quickly, which could be harnessed for other purposes. Oils not suitable for food, like cockroach oil, could still be used as an industrial lubricant or in paint.

Meanwhile the grasshopper and the soldier fly was said to have a fruity, pleasant aroma.

Insect fats are already used traditionally in some parts of the world to fry meats and as a hair and skin product.

According to an FAO report, insects are part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people with over 1,900 species reportedly used as food.

Animal, vegetable or mineral?

Insect oil was something like a half-way house between vegetable and animal fat.

It was neither as saturated as animal fat nor cholesterol-free like vegetable oil.

Whilst not comparable to omega-3 levels from fish, Tzompa-Sosa’s research has shown insect oils contained essential fatty acids oleic acid, linoleic acid and linolenic acid.

In the four insect species studied, the average amount of unsaturated fatty acid ranged from 64 g/100 g in beetles (A. diaperinus) and crickets (A. domesticus) to 75 g/100 g in mealworms (T. molitor) and cockroaches (B. dubia).

The lipid content of insects ranged from less than 10% to over 30% of fresh weight basis depending on the insect.  

Related News

A new offering from Sunbelt Bakery offers a unique twist on the protein bar.

Sunbelt Bakery's Protein Delights to compete with Kellogg and General Mills protein bars, says brand director

There are no systematically collected data on animal and human consumption of insects for us to look at, says EFSA

EFSA on insects: Pathogens harmful to humans most likely from farming

Will the Crobar or other cricket-based snacks see a rise in popularity?

The cricket bar: A healthy alternative to steak?

Exo will release a line of savory cricket bars.

Exo launches new line of savory cricket bars

About 27% of the 7.3 billion global population eat insects, according to the FAO. Photo credit: / peterkai

Two-year count down for insect novel food approval

Which one will win the taste test in the battle of the burgers: Insect, plant or meat? © iStock

The ultimate taste test: Insect burger, plant burger or meat burger?

Source: One Hop Kitchen

One Hop Kitchen expands edible insects beyond baked goods into pasta sauce

In addition to the 1% of greenhouse gases that crickets produce they also produce no ammonia, need 13 times less water than cattle and a lot less space. ©iStock

British start-up Next Step Foods cracks protein market with cricket flour bar

Jimini's meal worms ©iStock

The secret to making insects a snack staple? 'Make a shareable, social product,' says Jimini's

The emergence of worms and crickets as a viable source of protein has led observers to speculate what's in store for future innovation by the food industry. ©iStock/Wittayayut.

Recipe for success: Why bugs & social innovation are on the menu

The consumption of insects has been heralded as an environmentally-sustainable solution to current and future food crises. ©iStock

Cricket farming is sustainable but food source must be focus, study notes

Lights, camera, action! Edible insects in focus at IFT 2015

Lights, camera, action! Edible insects in focus at IFT 2015

The future of edible insects rests on a third consumer group whose interest goes beyond novelty and even sustainability, says Invenire Market Intelligence

Insect protein market has enthusiasm & sustainability – now it needs a business plan

The challenges of selling insects in Europe

The challenges of selling insects in Europe

Could lab-grown meat provide one solution? Or is its commercialisation too far off?

Lab meat, plant proteins and insects: Which alternative proteins will feed the world?

Steak TzarTzar produces protein powder from grasshoppers bred at its Israeli facility

Israeli start-up has novel approach for grasshopper shakes

"There is a lack of cross-cultural research for understanding the similarities and differences in perceptions and acceptance of insects as food," say the researchers who compared Thai and Dutch attitudes towards eating insects

How can industry warm the Western palate to eating insects?

Related Products

See more related products

Comments (5)

Mary Krause - 29 Aug 2015 | 03:33

What are the genetics of insect protein/oil in foods?

Is anyone studying the genetic impact of including insect protein or oil in foods produced for humans or other species to eat?

29-Aug-2015 at 15:33 GMT

Duong - 24 Aug 2015 | 01:37

contact with author

Hi Annie, Thanks for your article, I'm very interested in with edible insect application. I would like to contact with Ms. Daylan A. Tzompa-Sosa to ask her more how to extract oil from insects. I look forward to hearing from you. Duong

24-Aug-2015 at 13:37 GMT

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.