A cringe thought comes to human mind when they hear other are eating insects and only minority population of world will not let a cricket, grasshopper or beetle around their dinner table. And this yuck factor has no relation with nutrition, digestion or evolution. According to a new Rutgers study on insects, the type of food only by our primate ancestors could still be eaten and digested by almost all primitives today, including humans.
Research Mareike Janiak says that for very long period mammals didn’t have or produces the enzymes that could breakdown the exoskeletons of insects leading a difficulty in digestion. He is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology. He exclaims that after so many researches in bats and mice, this research on insects is not a primate one.
Primates that produces enzymes in stomach and breaks down exoskeletons, almost all living primates that have working versions of the gene required were discovered by Janiak and the collaborators from Kent State University. In search for copies of a gene called CHIA, researchers’ studied and looked at the genomes of 34 primates. It is part of outer covering of insect, a stomach enzyme that breaks down chitin.
With continuous research they discovered while most living primates have only one copy of the CHIA gene, whereas early primates, which seemed to be very small along with three working copies. Thus, this displayed that for our ancestors, insects was important food source for their digestive system. Living primates who eat insects more than any other primates, exists only on islands in Southeast Asia.
According to the researcher Janiak, some primates were larger and were more active during day than at night i.e. why their diet consumption became different and they ate fruits and leaves. Due to change in their diet their digestive enzymes also changed but most of the living primates still have at least one working CHIA gene. Debate in the earlier digestive system and present digestive system is ongoing but still there are many more things a human can digest like outer covering of harder shell while others say it’s not possible.
Research has been conducted on the basis of western culture and no other cultural that eats insects regularly. A survey by United Nation, shows that insects are part of traditional diet of 2 billion people around the world with 1,900 species considered both edible and highly nutritious food source with healthy fats, proteins fiber, vitamins and an important mineral.