Is the consumption of snail meat actually healthy? An analysis of the osteotropic influence of snail meat as a sole source of protein in growing rats

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Nutrition plays a key role in bone metabolism, especially in the development and maintenance of bone mass. Moreover, optimal nutrition and physical activity may decrease the risk of metabolic bone disorders development, for example osteoporosis, by as much as 50% (Dawson‐Hughes, Harris, Krall, & Dallal, 1997). Protein forms the main part of a complete diet during physical growth in childhood, as well as for repair and remodelling of bone and muscle tissues in adults. Protein is, hence, essential for bone physiology, and numerous studies have documented the important correlation between adequate dietary protein supply and bone health (Hannan et al., 2000; Kerstetter, Looker, & Insogna, 2000; Munger, Cerhan, & Chiu, 1999; Rapuri, Gallagher, & Haynatzka, 2003).
Numerous papers suggest that snail meat can be an important source of protein in the diet of both animals and humans (Adegoke, Bukola, Comfort, Olayinka, & Amos, 2010; Fagbuaro, Oso, Edward, & Ogunleye, 2006). Indeed, Kaensombath & Ogle (Kaensombath & Ogle, 2005) documented that fresh or ensiled snail meat can replace the fish meal in the diet of fattening pigs without any negative effects on the growth performance. Comparative analysis of the nutritive value of snail meat with that of other animal protein sources demonstrates that the protein content is comparable (88.37, 82.42 and 92.75%, for snail meat, pork and beef respectively) (Adegoke et al., 2010). Snail meat has been found to have low‐fat content. This supports the positive value of its dietetic properties, as well as its usefulness, especially in patients with metabolic syndrome (USDA 2006). Moreover, some nutritionists postulate that malnutrition and iron deficiency in school‐age children from developing countries can be reduced by the consumption of snail meat—which is cheaper and more readily available than beef or pork (Udofia, 2009). In addition, snails as a food source are rich in lectin, help to improve the immune system and possess anti‐cancer properties (Ito et al., 2011; Wolters‐Eisfeld & Schumacher, 2017).
Regarding the above, we advance the hypothesis that snail meat can affect the metabolism of bone tissue during the growth and development of the body. This study was, therefore, undertaken to investigate the osteotropic effect of diets in which the sole source of protein was the meat from the snails. In our study, to compare the effects and to evaluate possible species‐specific differences, we used the meat derived from three species of snails, for example Helix pomatia, Cornu.aspesa maxima and Cornu aspersum aspersu—all most popular as consummates. Our observation was compared to a control diet in which casein was the source of protein.
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