Worm ‘burgers’ could solve world hunger, scientists claim

It might be a very happy meal.

Creepy reptiles may hold the key to solving world hunger — by eating them as food.

As their name suggests, slimy creatures can be turned into grubs. South Korean scientist Mealworms or beetle larvae are cooked with sugar to produce “meat” – and claim to have an authentic taste.

“Recently, due to the rising cost of animal protein, as well as environmental concerns, eating insects has become interesting,” said Wonkwang University project leader Dr. Hee Cho said in a press release.

Because the world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050 – a huge jump from our current population of around 8 billion – meat alternatives are increasingly being explored for their impact on the environment.

Climate change Cows are fueled in part by their emissions — the methane they produce — so a beef alternative is needed.

For those unwilling to part with their burgers, scientists may have found a solution with mealworms: grinding them up and making them taste like the real thing.

In fact, critters are a great source of nutrients the body needs, just like meat, according to researchers, and reduce cholesterol and inflammation while improving heart rhythm, according to researchers.

“Insects are a nutritious and healthy food source that contains high amounts of fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, fiber and high-quality protein – similar to meat,” said Cho. “Mealworms contain beneficial essential amino acids and are high in unsaturated fatty acids.”

Worm Some will not feel hungry.
Getty Images/Bloomberg Creative

But a squamish may not willingly bite mud worms. In many places, insects are not considered delicious, such as other countriesBut Dr. Cho is trying to dispel this stigma.

“The mealworm is one of the most widely consumed food insects in the world. However, edible insects are not universally accepted in our food cultures due to their repulsive appearance and unique taste characteristics,” added Cho, whose solution is to grind worms into a spice that can be added to various foods.

Through their research, Cho’s team studied mealworms throughout their life cycle, looking at how the compounds present at each stage differed. They found “volatile hydrocarbons” that evaporate and produce a strong aroma as a result.

Raw maggots smelled of wet earth, shrimp and sweet corn but that changed with the cooking method. Steamed larvae emit a sweet corn aroma, while roasted or deep-fried larvae are more oily.

In fact, the worms had more in common with food than just smell—the researchers said the chemicals produced were similar to those found in meat or seafood. When mixed with sugar, they form a “meat-like” mixture.

After trial and error of varying amounts of mealworms and sugar, samples were given to a test group to declare the winner with the most “meaty” aroma.

“As a result of this study, 10 flavors of reactions were optimized based on consumer preferences,” said co-author and graduate student Hyeung Park, who presented the findings at the American Chemical Society in Chicago.

According to the researchers, the results are hoped to be used to affect the large-scale production of the beetle’s meat, which can be repurposed as faux beef.

Foodies in the EU For some time now they have included mealworms in their menu which the critters have declared to be safe to eat. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization even calls insects “a healthy and highly nutritious food source with high levels of fat, protein, vitamins, fiber and minerals”.

But that’s not all – worms have also been shown to have medical benefits.

Earlier this year, Scientists discovered Worms can also detect lung cancer. Roundworms are attracted to or repelled by specific odors such as cancerous tissue.

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