Publicaciones

Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. 102(1-4), 2007


Artículos de investigación

Los insectos como alimento humano: Breve ensayo sobre la entomofagia, con especial referencia a México


Insects as human food: Short essay on entomophagy, with special reference to Mexico

Julieta Ramos-Elorduy B. y José Luis Viejo Montesinos

Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. 102 (1-4): 61-84, 2007

Resumen

En este trabajo abordamos la cuestión de los insectos como alimento humano, lo que resulta algo extraño para los países sin tradición entomofágica, como los europeos, pero que es de gran interés en numerosas regiones del mundo, en particular en México y en China. Los insectos constituyen un recurso alimenticio de considerable importancia en ciertas culturas, ya que son abundantes, relativamente fáciles de recolectar y, sobre todo, muy nutritivos. Los insectos se consumen de un modo habitual en 102 países del mundo, de los cinco continentes; el número de especies consumidas que hemos registrado asciende a 1745, y el continente donde mayor número de especies se consumen es América, con 699. Detallamos la biodiversidad de insectos comestibles en México, donde se han reportado 241 géneros de 13 órdenes, de los cuales son los Coleoptera, con 66 especies, los dominantes. Igualmente aportamos datos sobre biomasa y rendimiento energético de los insectos, así como aspectos etnológicos de la entomofagia mexicana. Otras cuestiones tratadas en nuestro ensayo se refieren al valor nutritivo de los insectos, ricos en proteínas, con mención expresa de la calidad de sus aminoácidos constituyentes, y en otros nutrientes, como ácidos grasos insaturados. Llamamos la atención sobre el posible problema de aculturación de las poblaciones indígenas y su repercusión en un empeoramiento de su dieta por pérdida del hábito entomofágico al transformarse sus comunidades nativas o al emigrar a las grandes ciudades.

Palabras clave: Insectos comestibles, Entomofagia, Etnoentomología, Nutrición humana, México.

Abstract

For many people just the idea of eating insects may seem shocking, specially for “Westerners”, but insects constitute the daily food for millions of persons in a number of countries throughout the world. Insects have many nutritious qualities, so it is necessary to consider their potential role as human food; these qualities are not easy equalled by other animals, between which are the so-called “conventional foods”. We considered that the use of insects in human feeding must be promoted and encouraged, supporting the persistence of entomophagy where it is rooted, and studying the possibilities of growing insects on different ranges of the species that offered the attributes searched, bearing in mind that what some countries need is the so-called “intermediate technology” that does not require a complex infrastructure, therefore, of low cost, taking into account the characteristics of the ecosystem where each species can be found. In addition, insects have a good palatability and their consumption gives a well-being sensation, and avoids diseases due to antibiotics of their cuticle; their nutritious value and the energy that they provide, in addition to vitamins and minerals that offer, without a doubt is useful to help the fight against hunger and under-nourishment. Insects taste very pleasantly; their consistency, generally crispy, their versatility of preparation, inherited by oral tradition, that has persisted in Mexico since at least 500 years, and the impressive variety whereupon chefs of the “Nouvelle Cuisine” elaborate them and display, make a prototype of desirable nourishment out of them. The improvement of the health of rural populations around the world and, therefore, the discouragement of the bad nutrition that at the present time prevails in many ethnic groups, depend to a large extent on the exploitation and development of the native nutritional resources. It also depends on a better use of conventional foods, which requires the knowledge of the nutritious values of local foods and their real understanding. In this work we deal the question of insects as human food, which is something strange in the countries without entomophagous tradition, as the European ones and other “Westerners”, but of great interest in numerous regions of the World, specially in Mexico and China. Insects are a nutritional resource of considerable importance in certain cultures, since they are abundant, relatively easy to collect and, mainly, very nutritious. Insects are consumed regularly in 102 countries around the world, of the five continents; the number of consumed species that we have registered rises up to 1475, and the continent where the greatest number of species is consumed is America, with 699. We detail the biodiversity of edible insects in Mexico, where 241 genera of 13 orders have been reported, of which Coleoptera, with 66, are the dominant ones. Also we supply data on biomass and energy efficiency of the insects, as well as ethnological aspects of Mexican entomophagy. Other questions treated in our essay refer to the nutritious value of the insects, rich in proteins, with mention of the quality of their essential constituent amino acids, and other nutrients, as unsaturated fatty acids. Comparison data on insects, poultry and cattle are also supplied. We called the attention on the possible acculturation of the indigenous populations and the worsening of their diets, losing the entomophagous habit when their native communities tend toward a Western lifestyle or when immigrating to the great cities. Insects are still widely important as food, and they contribute significantly to local economies.

Keywords: Edible insects, Entomophagy, Ethnoentomology, Human nutrition, Mexico.





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(c) Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural. Facultades de Biología y Geología. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. 28040-Madrid - e-mail: rsehno@bio.ucm.es