Responses of the human gut microbiota to physiologically digested insect powders or isolated chitin thereof

Gil Refael, Hila Tarazi Riess, Carmit Shani Levi, Faiga Magzal, Snait Tamir, Omry Koren, Uri Lesmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


As part of the quest for sustainable food choices, edible insects draw increasing attention. Nevertheless, not enough is known regarding their digestive fate and specifically little is known on the colonic fermentability of edible insects or chitin, which is found in many insects or crustaceans. This study interrogated the properties and fermentability of powders from crickets (Acheta domestica), silkworm pupae (Bombyx mori) or isolated chitin. This was done following their in vitro oral, gastric and intestinal digestion and subsequent fermentation in anaerobic bioreactors inoculated with human feces from 10 healthy volunteers. Specifically, each fecal sample was split into 5-parallel anerobic reactors fed with insect samples and fructooligosaccharides or negative control. These were sampled after 0, 5, 10 and 24 h and subjected to 16S rRNA gene sequencing and GC–MS determination of short-chain fatty acids. First, we show colloidal characteristics delineate the static in vitro digestibility of samples and the properties of effluents reaching the colon. Colonic fermentations reveal chitin significantly (p<0.05) supported an increase in biodiversity measures (e.g., alpha diversity using the Shannon index) more than whole insect powders but without any pronounced fluctuations in the production of short-chain fatty acids. Specific analyses further highlight that chitin may be partially responsible for this observation and that its isolated form may induce the growth of symbionts like members of the Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae families and the genera Faecalibacterium and Roseburia. Overall, this study suggests that chitin from insects may be a potential novel prebiotic, however further research is needed to ascertain this notion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100197
JournalFuture Foods
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Dina Shachar, Dr. Alex Samosav, Dr. Yuping Cao and other lab members of Prof. Sima Yaron lab for their support and various technical assistance along the way. Also, we would like to thank Dr. Stefan Green, Leonid Feferman, George Chlipala and the whole team from the Genome Research Center (GRC) at the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) for their kind and patient support and for their thorough explanations. Many thanks to the research participants for their kind cooperation.

Funding Information:
This research recieved the support of the Israeli Science Foundation grant 1749/22.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s)


  • Anaerobic colonic fermentation
  • Chitin
  • Edible insects
  • Gut microbiota
  • In vitro digestion
  • Short-chain fatty acids


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