Insects are already known to be a cheap and plentiful source of protein, that can be raised on relatively small amounts of land. If that isn't enough to get you chowin' down on the things, how about this – a recent study indicates that eating crickets may be good for your gastrointestinal tract.

Led by doctoral graduate Valerie Stull, a team at the University of Wisconsin - Madison recently conducted a six-week study involving 20 healthy male and female test subjects between the ages of 18 and 48.

For the first two weeks, half of the participants ate a "control" breakfast consisting of a regular muffin and shake, while the other half consumed muffins and shakes with an added 25 grams of powdered cricket meal – none of the subjects knew which type of breakfast they were getting.

Everyone ate regular breakfasts for the next two weeks, and then for the final two weeks, the people who started on the cricket diet ate normal breakfasts, and the participants who started with the normal breakfasts went onto the cricket diet.

A group of the scientists, who didn't know which people were in which group, collected blood samples, stool samples and answers to gastrointestinal questionnaires – they did so at the outset of the study, and then again after each of the two-week cricket/control diet periods.

It was found that when consuming the cricket powder, test subjects experienced an increase in a metabolic enzyme associated with gut health, along with higher levels of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium animalis. They also had lower levels of an inflammatory blood protein known as TNF-alpha, which has been linked to non-gastrointestinal health problems.

No side effects of the cricket diet were reported.

The scientists state that larger studies will be required to back up their findings, and to determine which components of crickets are contributing to gut health. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.