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Insects as sources of iron and zinc in human nutrition

  • Martin N. Mwangi (a1), Dennis G. A. B. Oonincx (a2), Tim Stouten (a2), Margot Veenenbos (a2), Alida Melse-Boonstra (a1), Marcel Dicke (a2) and Joop J. A. van Loon (a2)...

Dietary deficiencies in Fe and Zn are globally widespread, causing serious health problems such as anaemia, poor pregnancy outcomes, increased risk of morbidity and mortality, stunted growth and impaired physical and cognitive development. Edible insects, of which a diversity of over 2000 species is available, are dietary components for about 2 billion individuals and are a valuable source of animal protein. In the present paper, we review the available information on Fe and Zn in edible insects and their potential as a source of these micronutrients for the rapidly growing human population. The levels of Fe and Zn present in eleven edible insect species that are mass-reared and six species that are collected from nature are similar to or higher than in other animal-based food sources. High protein levels in edible insect species are associated with high Fe and Zn levels. Fe and Zn levels are significantly positively correlated. Biochemically, Fe and Zn in insects occur predominantly in non-haem forms, bound to the proteins ferritin, transferrin and other transport and storage proteins. Knowledge gaps exist for bioavailability in the human alimentary tract, the effect of anti-nutritional factors in other dietary components such as grains on Fe and Zn absorption and the effect of food preparation methods. We conclude that edible insects present unique opportunities for improving the micronutrient status of both resource-poor and Western populations.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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*Corresponding author: Professor Dr J. J. A. van Loon, email
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