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Research shows

Mealworm proteins just as beneficial as milk proteins

Research by Maastricht University proves for the first time that proteins from insects are as beneficial as proteins from milk, the most widely used protein at the moment. Both proteins are digested and absorbed in the same way and show similar results in the field of muscle building and recovery, according to a recent scientific publication.

The mealworms in the study were supplied by the Dutch company Protifarm. The insect grower was taken over this spring by the French company Ÿnsect. Both companies use vertical farming techniques for insect cultivation.

Protifarm and Ÿnsect view the study published on 21 May in the international scientific journal 'The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition' as a 'new major step forward' after mealworms were recently labelled safe for human consumption by the European Commission.

No difference from milk protein
Milk protein (80% casein and 20% whey) is often considered the highest quality protein. Research led by Maastricht University shows that mealworm proteins have a complete amino acid profile and are easily digested by humans. The ability to stimulate muscle growth was found to be no different between milk protein and mealworm protein.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, the building blocks. During digestion, proteins are broken down into individual amino acids. These are absorbed into the blood and transported to the muscles, where they are used for muscle recovery and muscle building.

The researchers added stable isotope tracers to the food of mealworm larvae (Alphitobius diaperinus). Volunteers were given a shake containing mealworm protein. Thanks to the tracers, the researchers were able to trace the amino acids in the human body, from the digestion of proteins to the absorption of amino acids and their properties as building blocks for the production of muscle tissue.

The same process was carried out with milk proteins. In this way, the researchers were able to investigate the digestibility of both protein sources, compare them and check their properties for muscle recovery and muscle building.

Unique research
Maastricht University is one of the few universities in the world to carry out this type of research. "We used unique stable isotopic tracers to demonstrate both the digestibility of mealworms and the ability to build muscle. The result was no different between mealworm protein and milk protein. It is great to see how the human body can effectively use both protein sources to maintain and build muscle," says Prof. Dr. Luc van Loon, head of research.

Mealworm protein is the only natural source of protein available on the market worldwide that combines sports performance and health (digestion, protein absorption, building and maintaining muscle tissue, reducing plasma cholesterol and cholesterol produced in the liver) with sustainability. Compared to livestock farming, Ÿnsect, including its Protifarm food business, uses 98% less land and water and has a lower carbon footprint. 

Ÿnsect and Protifarm are proud of the fact that their production is more sustainable compared to milk proteins. "In short, protein from mealworms offers the best of both worlds," said Tom Mohrmann, CEO of Protifarm. "It is a high-quality protein that is produced in an extremely sustainable environment."

Antoine Hubert, CEO and co-founder of Ÿnsect adds: "This study once again demonstrates the exceptional qualities of mealworms and their beneficial effects in terms of sports performance and health. After demonstrating the effects of these proteins on lowering cholesterol, we are now able to provide evidence in the area of sports performance as well."

Following the positive research result, Ÿnsect Group's goal is to further develop the production of insect proteins and thereby provide a solution to the increasing global demand for alternative proteins and the challenges associated with it. Protifarm currently has customers primarily in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Denmark and Belgium.

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