Science & Technology

WU researchers discover feed formula for raising sago beetles with omega-3 content higher than that of fish oil

Most people know that fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, one of the research projects from Walailak University has shown that sago beetles can contain 1.2 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that fish contain. This result does not occur naturally in sago beetles but is dependent on what type of food is selected for feed. WU researchers have successfully discovered a feed formulation for raising sago beetles to obtain higher nutritional values, including protein, minerals, all 9 essential amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. This is good news for consumers as it provides an alternative source of essential nutrients, and it is good news for farmers as this research enhances the commercial development of edible insects.

Associate Professor Dr. Worawan Panpipat, the lecturer from WU’s School of Agricultural Technology and Food Industry and the head of the Center of Excellence in Food Technology and Innovation, works with a team consisting of Ms. Kanittha Jinarak, Associate Professor Dr. Manat Chaijan and Assistant Professor Dr. Pijug Summpunn. They have researched the nutritional value of Sago palm weevil larvae raised in farm systems in 3 southern provinces including Nakhon Si Thammarat, Pattalung, and Yala. According to findings, sago beetles from all 3 provinces contain fat and protein as their main components: 52.4-60.1% fat and 18.0-28.5% protein. The sago beetles are also rich in minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese and iron. The nutritional values, however, depend on feed ingredient and feeding methods.

Studying the protein quality of conventional farm-raised sago beetles, the researchers have found that essential amino acids are lower than the guidelines for protein set by Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. In addition, the beetles are low in essential fatty acids, and the proportion of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are insufficient. Starting with this information, WU researchers conducted an in-depth study to develop feed ingredients that could increase nutrient values. They also sought to stimulate the growth of sago beetles so as to aid in increasing the commercial production potential of Southern Thailand edible insects. The research team studied how to increase all nutrients but focused on increasing essential omega-3 fatty acids like those in fish oil; they also studied the expression of genes involved in lipid synthesis in order to understand in-depth mechanisms in the metabolic system of sago beetles. This is because sago beetles have a higher fat content and as well as a much shorter life cycle than deep sea fish.

“This newly developed feed formula can grow sago beetles to be larger and heavier than traditional feeds and can shorten raising time of sago beetles by at least 10 days. By this new feed formula, the nutrient values of sago beetles are much higher than with traditional farm raising: the protein content is 40-92 percent higher. It is also a high-quality protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. The amount of essential amino acids increases by 12-48 percent. When compared to the standard protein requirements of the FAO, it was found that the essential amino acid content of the sago beetles is 1-1.5 times higher than the reference protein. Therefore, the sago beetles are a good source of high-quality protein. The fat of sago beetles fed by the new formula feed contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids at 10-25 times that of traditional ones and 1.24 times higher than that of fish oil. In addition, the omega-6 / omega-3 fatty acid ratio is lower than 4/1 which indicates healthy fats. Besides healthy protein and fat, many minerals are found in sago beetles fed with the feed, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, calcium and zinc. These minerals are more abundant in the specially-fed sago beetle than are the minerals found in chicken eggs.”

Associate Professor Dr. Worawan said at the end that the result of this research can help increase commercial potential of sago beetles and provide an alternative food source rich in nutrients essential for the human body. This is an in-depth research that affects a foundational economic industry and can result in the creation of career security for farmers. The research team would like to thank WU researcher development and research for industry at the doctoral level for the research budget.



Rewritten from Thai by Uraiwan Angkanawisut