Dietary, medicinal values of termites explored

In Nigeria, termites are usually roasted and eaten as food, mostly during the rainy season.
But can termites be the next therapeutic resource for the treatment of asthma, hoarseness and sinusitis, wounds, malnutrition, nutrient deficiency, sickness of pregnant women and as a charm for spiritual protection?

Recent studies suggest that, in addition to their ecological importance, termites are a source of medicinal and food resources to various human populations in various locations of the world, showing their potential for being used as an alternative protein source in human or livestock diets, as well as a source for new medicines.

Nigerian researchers have determined the nutrient composition and the toxicant level of the commonly eaten termites (Macrotermes bellicosus) castes in Niger-Delta region of Nigeria.
Macrotermes bellicosus are known to the Ibos as Aku; to the Hausa as Khiyea; Esusun in Yoruba; and Ebu in Annang.

The study titled “Evaluation of Nutritional Value of Termites (Macrotermes
bellicosus): Soldiers, Workers, and Queen in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria” was published in International Journal of Food Nutrition and Safety.

The researchers include: A. I. Ntukuyoh, D. S. Udiong, E. Ikpe, and A. E. Akpa Kpan of the Department of Chemistry, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Queen, soldiers and workers of termites (Macrotermes bellicosus) were
analyzed for proximate composition, vitamin, mineral elements and anti-nutrient content.
Proximate composition showed that crude protein content of the soldiers was higher than those of workers and Queen. The highest mineral element was sodium in queen, while the least mineral was manganese in the soldiers. The termites were rich in vitamins A and C. Workers termites had the highest vitamin C content, while Queen had the highest vitamin A content. Anti-nutrient compositions in Macrotermes bellicosus were considerably low.
Macortermes bellicosus constitute a significant component of diet among the people of the Niger-Delta region in Nigeria. 

A number of insect and their products are used as food items in some parts of Nigeria and to a large extent eaten as tit bits or exclusively by children. Insects have played an important role in the history of human nutrition and it is probable that the first hominids in African were eating insects. Insects including termites are good sources of protein with high fat content (and thus energy) and many important minerals and vitamins. 

In assessing the nutritive value or food value of termites, its anti-nutrient content, mineral element and lipids characteristics are considered to assess whether termites are nutritive or not. Phytic acid is one of the important parameter that makes-up anti-nutrients in living organism and it interfere with utilization of manganese, iron and calcium. It inhibits the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium, and the deficiencies of these elements cause Anamia osteomalacia and even rickets. 

Phytic acid content of termite (adult) winged stands out as the only nutritional factor that would contradict our recommendation for heavy consumption and food fortification of insects. This is general for most tropical insects including termites and has been implicated for growth inhibition in day old chicks. In man the surplus consumption of the inorganic mineral (magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) which are sequestered by phytic acid would circumvent the deficiency anticipated. 

Lethal dose of oxalic acid has been reported as 2.5 g, and a person in western Nigeria may consume 11.6 g of oxalate, it therefore means that without detoxication, it would not be safe to consume them due to oxalate toxication. 

Termites can be used as food for non-human primates. Suzuki (1966) described insect eating primarily ants and termites by wild chimpanzees in cites of Tanzania, and other studies were on the eating of insects by chimpanzees, Japanese monkeys and baboons. Termites are eaten in several parts of Nigeria and it is also used for rituals and medicinal purposes.
In India termites and even its termitaria have medicinal usages as termites based medicinal companies are established. In East Africa, termite mounds are considered so important that they are owned by individual and form part of his inheritance when he dies. 

Also, a recent review has shown that termites are commonly used insects in traditional popular medicine. They are used in the treatment of various diseases that affect humans, such as influenza, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, sinusitis, tonsillitis and hoarseness.
The study titled “Edible and medicinal termites: a global overview” was published in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine and BioMed Central.

According to the study, additionally, these animals have historically been an important source of food that may contribute to improving human diet, particularly for people who suffer from malnutrition due to a deficit of protein, as they are considered a non-conventional food with great economic and social importance. They have been consumed for generations in many regions of the world, a practice that has increased in popularity in recent years.

For medicinal purposes, the use of ten species of termites was recorded. These species are used as an alternative treatment for physiological and spiritual problems. The species Nasutitermes macrocephalus was the most frequently recorded, and it is widely used in Brazil as a therapeutic resource for the treatment of asthma, hoarseness and sinusitis, among other diseases. Another example is Macrotermes nigeriensis, which is used in Nigeria in the treatment of wounds, sickness of pregnant women and as a charm for spiritual protection.

The use of termites as a therapeutic resource also revealed an important mode of use of these animals. Evidence of antimicrobial activity of products isolated from these animals has been reported, such as peptides like espinigerine and termicine, isolated from Pseudocanthotermes spiniger, which showed antifungal and antibacterial activities. 

 SOURCE :.ngrguardiannews

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