Insect Models in Nutrition Research
Insects are the most diverse organisms on earth, accounting for ~80% of all animals. They are valuable as model organisms, particularly in the context of genetics, development, behavior, neurobiology and evolutionary biology. Compared to other laboratory animals, insects are advantageous because they are inexpensive to house and breed in large numbers, making them suitable for high-throughput testing. They also have a short life cycle, facilitating the analysis of generational effects, and they fulfil the 3R principle (replacement, reduction and refinement). Many insect genomes have now been sequenced, highlighting their genetic and physiological similarities with humans. These factors also make insects favorable as whole-animal high-throughput models in nutritional research. In this review, we discuss the impact of insect models in nutritional science, focusing on studies investigating the role of nutrition in metabolic diseases and aging/longevity. We also consider food toxicology and the use of insects to study the gut microbiome. The benefits of insects as models to study the relationship between nutrition and biological markers of fitness and longevity can be exploited to improve human health.