At a time when Ugandans were grappling with an upsurge in cancer cases, nature seemed to possess the solution in the form of insects.
Scientists at the University of Rome have found that eating grasshoppers, white aunts, crickets can protect people from developing cancer, because they contain large quantities of anti-oxidants, which are essential in preventing cancer.
Antioxidants, such as vitamins, reduce the development of potentially-dangerous free radicals in the body, the scientists said, protecting against DNA damage.
Until now, a healthy diet was believed to contain mostly vegetables and fruits because of their anti-oxidant levels.
The findings about the healthy benefits of grasshoppers may now focus on cancer. But Ugandan researchers had already discovered that grasshoppers also contain a lot of proteins.
And unlike the western cultures which consider these insects as backward, the habit of eating the insects is commonplace in Uganda, meaning that the solution to cancer is at hand, only if we made a little effort.
Researchers found some types contain more antioxidants than orange juice in a study which saw them ground down to be mixed into a drink.
Researchers from the University of Rome found that crickets, grasshoppers and silkworms were the healthiest insects, with five times as many antioxidants as orange juice.
Scientists affirm that insects including ants, grasshoppers, crickets and silkworm have numerous health benefits. They thus tested the powder to work out how many antioxidants – compounds such as vitamins A, C and E and beta-carotene – were in there.
Only the soluble parts of the insects were used – their wings and stingers were taken off first – with the view of them being consumed as a drink.
And powdered cricket, grasshopper and silkworm had five times as many antioxidants as notoriously nutritious orange juice.
‘Edible insects are an excellent source of protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and fibre,’ scientist Professor Mauro Serafini said.
Medicinal uses of animals, mainly of insects, has been used traditionally across the world and is still incorporated into modern medicine in some countries.
Dung beetles have been recommended for constipation, for example, spider silk for healing wounds, and grasshoppers to relieve headaches.
While many are now considered pseudoscience, some have been scientifically proven to have potential – such as bees’ honey which has been found to have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties in some studies.
There has been little medical research conducted since the revolutionary invention of antibiotics.
Numerous medicines do contain ingredients derived from animals, usually pigs or cows. These include some insulins, vaccines and pancreatic enzyme supplements.