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Insect fat supplements: Entoprotech investigates anti-inflammatory potential of Black Soldier flies


Circular economy company Entoprotech has partnered with Betty Schwartz, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to investigate BSF fat’s potential. Entoprotech already uses BSF for organic waste treatment and the production of insect-based products and bioactive materials.

“We don’t see issues like consumer perception and market acceptance as major challenges. Our vision is to develop BSF fat as encapsulated food supplement and in this format, the consumer perception is of little concern,” Yulia Mituchin, Entoprotech’s head of research, tells NutritionInsight. 

Kickstarting R&D
The project is expected to complete in Q1 2020 and will use an animal model of inflammation. The company flags it could lead to new high-demand potential applications for BSF fat. Commercialization is targeted for early 2023. 

Around 30 percent of BSF’s dry weight is fat, with the exact portion dependent on the insect’s diet. 

It is extracted through mechanical pressure via a screw press, which is less efficient than other methods involving heating, fractionation or use of supercritical fluid. However, it does preserve all the bioactive ingredients in the fat. 

“The purification process is cheap and easily scalable, and there are a lot of commercially available types of enteric coating (capsules) on the market,” says Mituchin.

However, one practical challenge is identifying long-term streams of the right food waste, as not every type is optimal for BSF. 

“We continually evaluate available streams, how the waste is stored and how it is processed, to ensure our process is as efficient and high-producing as possible,” she notes. 

Parallels with palm kernel oil
This investigation stems from BSF fat’s similarities to palm kernel oil in terms of its lipid composition, and thus is likely to have similarly important anti-inflammatory properties.

“The lipid composition of BSF fat resembles the composition of palm kernel oil with the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) lauric acid (C12:0) being the major component. MCT’s have been shown to lessen low-grade inflammatory response,” says Schwartz. 

MCT’s downregulate transcription and production of activators of the complement system and other inflammatory pathways, thereby minimizing the local and systemic inflammation. 

Consequently, the researchers expect to demonstrate these activities supposedly mediated by BSF in pertinent laboratory model systems.

BSF may also contain additional fatty acids and ingredients which may contribute to or enhance anti-inflammatory properties.

“The mechanistic studies are underway. Inflammatory bowel disease is a good example of a condition that can be effectively and efficiently treated with BSF fat, although in principle, it could be used to address any metabolic condition with underlying inflammation,” adds Mituchin.

A sustainable approach
BSF present a way to turn the 1.6 billion metric tons of food wasted each year into something useful. 

The flies decompose waste, turning 31 percent into water and 10 percent into CO2. However, 34 percent can be used as organic fertilizer, 5 percent as protein-rich feed supplements and 2 percent as fat. 

Notably, BSF immune systems produce antibacterial and anti-inflammatory materials that kill competitors for food waste, such as germs and fungi. 

Innova Market Insights reports that half of consumers say they are willing to pay extra for products devoted to solving food waste, with an additional third saying they might be. 

As a result, the food, beverage and nutrition industries have all been looking for ways to tap into this lucrative market. 

Today, Barry Callebaut launched its Cabosse Naturals brand, which turns previously underutilized cacaofruit into nutrient-rich ingredients. Meanwhile, researchers developed a way to boost milk chocolate’s antioxidant properties by upcycling peanut skins. 

Flying into the mainstream?
Despite a history as a taboo-food in many cultures, insects have been increasingly in the spotlight as the world looks to sustainable ways to feed its ballooning population. 

This has been aided by shifting legislation. Earlier this month, new policies paved the way for insects’ first novel food authorizations in the EU. 

Last year, Thai Union Group invested in Flying Spark, an Israeli start-up producing 70 percent protein powder made from insect larvae. 

Meanwhile, Ÿnsect netted €20 million (US$23 million) worth of backing for the insect industry’s first fully-automated, sustainable, bio-based protein plant.