Eating worms

October 31, 2011 —

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that it affects nearly two billion people. Matthew Abendroth, a second-year DMU osteopathic student, suggests one solution might be entomophagy, the human consumption of insects.

Matthew was among the winners in a student poster competition at the Heartland Global Health Consortiumconference held at DMU on Oct. 12. His poster stated that many edible insects are very high in protein, fats and many vitamins and minerals, including iron, so adding them to one’s diet makes sense.

Hello...lunch?

While consuming crickets or dining on worms may sound like a perfectly frightening thought for Halloween, consider this: Among high-iron foods, according to Matthew’s poster, in 100-gram increments, raw house crickets have almost 60 milligrams of iron and dry mopane worms – the caterpillar of the emperor moth Ganimbrasia belina – offer more than 30; pan-fried beef liver will give you only five milligrams of iron per 100 grams.

“Many insects are almost like a super food,” Matthew told me. And regarding the “ewww” factor, he points out: “Lobsters eat only dead animals. Grasshoppers eat grass.”

Matthew adds that one goal of his research and poster is to advocate for further research. Proving that people can sufficiently absorb iron by eating insects, for example, would require human trials, an obvious research challenge. But in a world with a growing population, increasing iron deficiency and the high environmental and financial cost of producing animal protein, biting on bugs just might be the answer.


Endlessly curious and easily entertained, Barb Dietrich Boose loves being a member of the friendly, fascinating DMU community and its creative communications team. The University's publications director and DMU Magazine editor, Barb is always on the hunt for story ideas, good books and new recipes to try out on her family, such as her surprisingly tasty pork-and-bean bars.