Earthworm-Based Protein


Protein is something we should eat because our body doesn’t store it the way it stores fats and carbs. Protein is an essential nutrient for the building, maintenance, repair, and prolongation of almost all the cells and tissues in our body, including skin, bones, cartilage, muscles, blood, hair, nails, and organs. Protein also gives us energy and helps keep our immune system strong. Basically, if we want to live longer, we should eat enough protein regularly.

It has been a long discussion and it is becoming more understandable that plant-based protein food for animal husbandry, fishery, and humans cannot stand alone without any supplement from animal-based protein.

The recent facts on protein for human by Food Revolution Network mentioned that:

– If we’re eating enough food, so we don’t lose weight, and we’re eating a variety of whole foods, it’s almost impossible to consume too little protein.

– Far more people may be suffering from getting too much protein, than suffering from getting too little protein.

– When we consume more protein than our body needs, it doesn’t store as much protein. Instead, it’s converted to fat or eliminated through our kidney, which contributes to osteoporosis and kidney stones.

– Overconsumption of protein was associated also with higher rates of cancer, renal disease, disorders of liver function, and coronary artery disease.

– A high-protein diet, particularly if the proteins are derived from animals, is nearly as bad as smoking for our health.

It surprised me when I participated at the International Earthworm Congress in Shanghai last Summer that the most potential earthworm market at this moment in China is for pharmaceutical purposes (as natural anti blood clotting or blood thinners) and traditional medicines (as antipyretic to reduce fever and antiviral), also for animal feed. Not for organic farming or the natural way of farming, starting the worm composting as a part of waste management, and not for bioremediation of the contaminated soils.

It was reported at the plenary session by the chairman of the Earthworm Industry Forum that even the worm composts or vermicomposts or worm castings contain protein from a single cell beneficial soil microbes that can be fed to poultry and fish to increase their production significantly; It’s like prebiotics and probiotics in our intestines.

Pharmaceutical materials such as lumbrokinase and fetidin can be extracted from earthworm protein. Lumbrokinase is a fibrin-dissolving enzyme that prevents hypercoagulation i.e. clotting of human and animal blood. Fetidin or eiseniaphore is an antimicrobial-peptide that is not hemolytic and is safe for the vertebrate immune system, including humans.

The idea of using earthworm biomass as an alternative source of protein for fish and animal feed is beneficial in many ways. The mean amounts of essential amino acids recorded from the earthworm tissue are very adequate for good animal feed if compared with the recommendation of the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) and WHO (World Health Organization), particularly in terms of lysine, methionine, cysteine, phenylalanine and tyrosine.

In addition to containing adequate protein content, earthworm tissue contains a preponderance of long-chain fatty acids, many of which the non-ruminant animals cannot synthesize. Earthworm protein has an excellent range of vitamins that are rich in vitamin B3 and provides a good source of vitamin B12. In general the earthworm body contains about 70% protein and 10% fat, it’s the opposite of the medium (rare) steak which contains about 10% protein and 70% fat.

As a summary of the different references, the composition of earthworm tissue consists of about 90% of water and the dry matter basis which are distributed into 65 – 70% of protein, 6 – 11% of fat, 5 – 21% of carbohydrate, and 2 – 3% of minerals with gross energy of 16 – 24 kilo Joule per gram.

The long evolutionary biology of  earthworm as a decomposer without any diseases until now because they have antimicrobial and anti blood-clot protein. They are surviving and successful in fertilizing the earth and producing earthworm-based protein that can be used as a revolutionary food supply for the customized animal feed and modern pharmaceutical industry around the globe in the very near future.

Recently, it was reported in Japan that cosmetics contain earthworm biochemical substance hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid has an effect on making skin slip, replenishing water and preserving moisture, and slowing down aging. No wonder that the healthy earthworm never gets dirty and their body is always shiny.

The photo of the protein structure above courtesy of Alfred Pasieka, Science Photo Library, Getty Images.

– Bintoro Gunadi

BRW card back

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