Effects of mealworm hydrolysates on improving immune function and gut microbiota in cyclophosphamide-induced mice
The immune system plays a crucial role in protecting the host from infections and other diseases. Dysregulation of immune function is a risk factor for various noninfectious diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Tenebrio molitor larvae, also known as mealworms, are edible insects that are a protein-rich food source. This study investigated the effects of mealworm hydrolysate (MH) on immune enhancement and gut microbiota changes in a cyclophosphamide-induced immunosuppression mouse model. The findings revealed that MH administration increased natural killer (NK) cell activity and cytokine levels. The MH treatment group demonstrated significantly elevated serum cytokine levels and splenic cytokine mRNA expression compared to the model group. MH also increased the phosphorylation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) and NF-κB inhibitor alpha (IκBα). Additionally, MH treatment altered the composition of the gut microbiota, increasing the relative abundance of Akkermansia and Corynebacterium, which are linked to immune function. Collectively, this study shows that MH improves immune-related markers and modulates the gut microbiota, implying that it could be used as a functional food for immune enhancement.