Partial substitution of meat with insect (Alphitobius diaperinus) in a carnivore diet changes the gut microbiome and metabolome of healthy rats

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Insects are suggested as a sustainable protein source of high nutritional quality, but the effects of insect ingestion on processes in the gastrointestinal tract and gut microbiota (GM) remain to be established. We examined the effects of partial substitution of meat with insect protein (Alphitobius diaperinus) in a four-week dietary intervention in a healthy rat model (n = 30). GM composition was characterized using’ 16S rRNA gene amplicon profiling while the metabolomes of stomach, small intestine, and colon content, feces and blood were investigated by1H-NMR spectroscopy. Metabolomics analyses revealed a larger escape of protein residues into the colon and a different microbial metabolization pattern of aromatic amino acids when partly substituting pork with insect. Both for rats fed a pork diet and rats fed a diet with partial replacement of pork with insect, the GM was dominated by Lactobacillus, Clostridium cluster XI and Akkermansia. However, Bray-Curtis dissimilarity metrics were different when insects were included in the diet. Introduction of insects in a common Western omnivore diet alters the gut microbiome diversity with consequences for endogenous metabolism. This finding highlights the importance of assessing gastrointestinal tract effects when evaluating new protein sources as meat replacements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1814
Issue number8
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

    Research areas

  • Alternative proteins, Insect protein, Microbiota, NMR-based metabolomics, Protein digestion

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