Metabolic effects of bee larva-derived protein in mice: Assessment of an alternative protein source

Yoko Yokoyama, Kawori Shinohara, Naho Kitamura, Anna Nakamura, Ai Onoue, Kazuki Tanaka, Akiyoshi Hirayama, Wanping Aw, Shigeru Nakamura, Yoko Ogawa, Shinji Fukuda, Kazuo Tsubota, Mitsuhiro Watanabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food crises caused by growing global population or environmental changes are predicted in the near future; therefore, sustainable solutions are needed. Edible insects, which are rich in protein and can save feed and environmental resources, have the potential to be a sustainable alternative protein source. However, there is limited evidence on the impact on health. In this study, we investigated the biological effects of ingesting bee larva by examining their effects on amino acid, lipid, and glucose metabolism in animal models. In our animal experiments, the replacement of casein as a protein source, with edible insects, did not seem to cause any deficiency in murine amino acid levels in the plasma and liver. Metabolomic analysis of plasma metabolites showed decreased 3-methylhistidine and increased nicotinamide in the bee larva-derived protein-fed mice. Decreased levels of plasma 3-metylhistidine, an indicator of muscle degradation, implies that replacement to bee-larva protein from casein did not cause muscle degradation in vivo. We further investigated effects of increased plasma nicotinamide on peripheral tissue and found an increase in expression levels of genes involved in glucose uptake in muscle and thermogenesis in adipose tissue. These data imply that bee larva is a potential sustainable, safe and healthy alternative protein source.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2642
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Nov


  • Bee larva
  • Edible insects
  • Metabolite
  • Nutrition balance
  • Protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Plant Science


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